technically speaking, i have three jobs, though most weeks, i manage to avoid working full-time. my main gig is as the library program director for a non-profit organization that provides books to school libraries where at least 90% of students live at or below the poverty line, which i wrote a bit about here. i also put in a few hours a week as an adjunct reference & instruction librarian at a local community college. and about twice a month, i work in the bel-air home of a wealthy rare book collector, Snodgrass*, primarily writing bibliographies for his dusty 18th and 19th century tomes, letters and manuscripts.
my office at the Snodgrass Estate is a guest bedroom, and from its ceiling, a chandelier hangs. it is a monstrous, Chihuly-looking thing from which sinister glass flowers dangle, dripping blood and raspberries. One October morning i stepped inside my office-bedroom to find that a white crib -- complete with mobile and teddy bear -- had appeared next to my desk. i wondered if my duties had been expanded to include childcare, or if this was a new receptacle for the works of Samuel Johnson and Sir Richard Burton.
last week, i finally met my unlikely officemate: a 12-pounder in pink pajamas named cleo. so the new piece of office furniture was not a book drop after all.
cleo, the snodgrass's newest granddaughter, is a frequent visitor to the estate, and in my absence, my desk doubles as her changing table.
last thursday, i was left alone with cleo under explicit instructions to "keep an eye on her." for a few minutes, i did no such thing, keeping my eyes glued to my laptop as cleo gurgled happily in her crib. then she started to cry. i thought i should do something, but was clueless as to what. i walked over to the crib, looked down and tried to read her blubbering face. she thrashed her tiny limbs through the air wildly -- a pink beetle on its back.
"please stop crying."
i never know what to say to babies.
it occurred to me to pick the kid up, but i wasn't sure i knew how. i realized that i couldn't remember the last time i held a a baby. i racked my brain, but could only come up with my baby brother -- 23 years ago.
and though i am no nanny, i didn't want the snodgrasses, who were clearly doting grandparents, to think i was irresponsible, or worse, a cold librarian. so i went for it, awkwardly scooping her up and trying to make some sense of this baby business. i held her at arm's length for a moment as she flailed, and considered my options. head up, right? so i brought her to my chest and the feeling was not unlike snuggling up to an overgrown earthworm. cleo didn't shut up. i attempted to bounce her, the way i've seen it done on TV.
"she's nice to hold, isn't she?"
lady snodgrass was standing behind me.
"she's very warm," i said.
with great relief, i allowed lady snodgrass to extract cleo from my grip. she wrapped the baby in her arms like a pro, gave her a few expert bounces, and started with the baby talk.
"meghan's the best librarian, isn't she, cleo? she takes such good care of grandpa's books, doesn't she? yes! yes! yes!"
and somehow, she made it sound quite dignified.
*name changed to protect anonymity