Vote Yes, Or My Kids Will Cry

Politics is a dirty business, as the saying goes. So, along with the real identity of Santa Claus and where babies come from, we try to avoid talking politics with our three kids.

Until the neon YES and NO signs popped up across our town. Suddenly, on an innocent drive to the grocery store, I was forced to have “The Talk”.

“What’s going on at the library?”  my 7-year-old daughter called from the back of the van. “That sign says YES! Library.”

Sign, sign everywhere a sign

“Um, there’s a vote for the library.” I said vaguely.

“What do you mean FOR the library? Where is it going? Is it going to CLOSE?” she wailed.

“There’s a car with no top!” yelled 5-year-old Josh. “And Caroline says the library is closing!”

“Wait, wait, wait…” I start to explain.

“NO LIBRARY! NO LIBRARY!” 2-year-old Kitty started chanting.

After calming the rowdy van crowd, I tried to explain that there was a vote (“What’s a vote, Mom?”) to decide if people will pay more taxes (What are taxes, Mom?) for the library.

“It’s a library.” said Caroline matter of factly.  “Why WOULDN’T you want to pay for it?”

Great  point. Sometimes it takes the mind of a child to simply say what adults seem to screw up.  I explained that people had to work hard for their money, and some did not want to pay.

“Can’t we help them pay?” she asked.

“I have some money,” pointed out Josh. “I found a penny in Caroline’s room.”

I tried to explain a millage (“A million, Mom?”), why some people weren’t happy with the city and after a lame Civics 101 lesson… Silence.

“I don’t care,” said Caroline. “I want our Library.”

So for the next month, it became the back seat obsession.  The  kids proceeded to count every YES and NO sign they saw sticking out of front lawns (81 yes, 28 no).  They wanted to know if people were going to burn the books if the library closed. (Yes, that is what one lawn sign said. In jest. Try explaining that.) It was amazing to me that their first real understanding of politics had to come from the least political place I know.

Libraries are escapes from the real world. Quiet (thanks to the drill-sergeant-shusher-librarian) and full of possibility.  The library on the chopping block happened to be the one I grew up going to.  The magical place where I could take out the same “Ramona” book over and over again.  The same place, where I slathered on green eyeshadow in preparation for a study date with a high school crush.  They still have some of the same decorations on the wall (like the poster with the hot air balloon that says “Aim High!”). And when I had my own kids, I took them to story hour.  My son took his first steps reaching for a puppet in the children’s area.

The day of the vote, I realized we had an overdue book in the house.   You know, after taking out a stack of 15 books, one magically (kind of like socks) found itself wedged far underneath the bed. So I returned it.  The library was quiet, the cafe was closed, the library gift shop locked up and dark, all in anticipation of what would happen in the election.  I stood there and realized that perhaps this was the last time I would be in the library.  My eyes got watery.  It must have been dusty in there.

The next day, we got the good news. The millage passed.  Big cheers from the kids, and a big list of books they wanted to check out next.  I hoped it would be awhile before I had to have my next political conversation with the kids.

It wasn’t.

“What’s a debt ceiling?” asked Josh, one day later. “Is it next to my ceiling fan?”

“Yep.” I said.

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16 thoughts on “Vote Yes, Or My Kids Will Cry

  1. What a beautiful story! THANK YOU! And LOL about the decorations in the children’s section! We will have to work on that!

  2. This seriously made my cry, Christy! I feel exactly the same way the kids did about the library – “Why????” I, too, have so many fond memories at libraries growing up and it would break my heart not to afford my daughter the same opportunity I had to roam up and down each aisle in wonderment of what each story described inside.

    Yay for the library remaining open!

    As far as explaining the debt ceiling…GOOD LUCK 😉

  3. Christy,

    Love this story and your writing. I have a 3 & 6 year old and find myself having to simplify complex ideas like politics too frequently (especially delicate, because my hubby and I have different beliefs on the subject!)

    Caroline’s comment reminded me of something I read last year, following a newspaper story about Troy having to close its library if its millage failed. The commenter wrote “Who needs libraries? We have the internet.” Ugh. Heartsick.

    So glad that your millage passed!

    Cheers,

    ~Lori

  4. I think it’s absurd to not want to invest in or financially support a library through taxes. If one were to remove a library, if a good enough reason were proposed, I’d think a replacement public resource be offered otherwise it’s pushing future youth in a bad direction…

  5. Nice!

    With the Library debacle, what’s been on my mind is how Troy got to this spot in the first place.

    Upfront, I have to say my writng has somewhat fewer flourishes than yours, but I’ll make up for it with content. 😉

    Having grown up in Troy and been built by its strengths, which were mostly the residents of this fine city, I did not discover what I had until I went off to college. It was at this time that I realized how much more I had been given by the City of Troy’s schools, Library, engaged businesses and its citizens.

    Troy grew as it took its mottow “City of Tomorrow….Today” to great hights and became a city where major corporations wanted to be located, small businesses opperated in a friendly environment and the city put its ever increasing assets back into the community to make it a great place to live, work and raise a family. When my family moved there, I believe, it was the fastest growing city in the country.

    Troy took its motto to new levels. It replaced buildings and equipment that supported them, not because they were no longer functional, but because they were no longer new. Instead of repairing the old Troy High, which had already had significant improvements and additions, such as its performing arts center, Troy felt it needed to build an entirely new and modern Troy High. It did this inspite of the fact that the new structure was designed for a Southern climate, where many kids eat their lunch outside, was not large enough for the coming students and cut corners on building materials and techniques that would have made it last for the long run. None of that mattered to Troy, the new building was modern and flashy and had all of the newest technical advances. After all, how could their students be expected to learn properly unless their computers had HD screens on them?

    Once they had this task done, they set about knocking down a very good and easily repairable tructure in the old High School and set about building the most modern Troy Community Center they could concieve of, with new pools, wieght and exercise rooms, meeting and convention facilities. They did all this even though they were now in direct competition with the cities parks and recreation programs and numerous tax paying profitable businesses within the cities limits (think Marriott, Lifetime Fitness, Troy Gymnastics Center, etc.).

    I am hoping you can see where I am leading. The city has built itself up with facilities that come at enormous innitial and annual expenses that directly complete with businesses that are paying the taxes that make them possible in the first place. So it really isn’t that there are citizens of Troy that don’t want to pay for a wonderful Library, it is that the city has arrogantly squandered the revenue that supports that wonderful institution.

    I have equally fond memories of the Troy Library and still go there occasionally and I can view it from my office window on the other side of Big Beaver. But I have a hard time blaming anyone for asking the question “why do I have to pay additional taxes to maintain the libarary?”

    • Thanks for the response, Aaron… a thoughtful argument for sure. But the old Troy High was not salvageable due to asbestos and massive heating/cooling problems – didn’t you ever have to wear a coat in class during the winter?? I sure do miss that theater, though! Thanks for reading and taking the time to write – hope you are well!

  6. Pingback: Parents’ Pants Are Frequently On Fire « christymcdonald

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