It is Buy One, Get One Free bookfair time at the local elementary library I will be at this week. The library does not make any money with this fair; they just want to get books into kids' hands for the summer. As I walked in this a.m. I could see the place was packed with parents and children waiting in line to check out. They had two cashiers but the lines were long.
There is always lots of tension with before school selling. Kids need to get to class and parents are on their way to work. I ran over to one cashier and began bagging and pre-counting money to help speed up the line.*
At book fairs you have different kinds of money. There is "parent money" which is in the form of check or credit card and accompanied by adults in charge. You answer the question, "Who should I make this out to?" so many times that you begin to think of inking the answer on your forehead.
Then there is the "responsible child" money. This is the cash machine denomination that the young one must parcel out responsibly. Sometimes an older sibling also oversees a younger sibling's purchases with "responsible child" money.
My favorite money is "kid money" because it comes from under the bed, from the piggy bank, or from down in the sofa cushions. This is wadded-up, folded-up, scrunched-up and twisted-up currency in bills, quarters, dimes and pennies. It comes through the door in ziplock bags or from inside their shoes.
You haven't lived until you've watched a child shake money out of the toe of their Nikes which they then hand you to count. Damp and fragile dollar bills must be unrolled with the same caution scholars use to examine the Dead Sea Scrolls, all the while you are reminding yourself, "don't scratch your nose!" because now, suddenly, every germ transferring point of your face is beginning to twitch.
Me: "Do you know how much you have?"
Me: Well, of course not. "Step over here so we can count it."
Kiddo (shaking his other still shod foot) : "Wait, I've got to check my other shoe."
Me: "Alas, you do not have enough money for the space-telescope-Geiger-counter-decoder-ring-airplane-launcher but you do have enough to buy this book and then you get one free!
Finally, the tardy bell rang, parents completed their purchases and everyone collapsed for a few minutes until the first class of the day arrived. Teachers and students came through all day. Their happy smiles and gleeful wanderings confirmed my belief that our national pastime is not sports, politics or watching TV. We love shopping more than anything.
Over lunch I visited with the cashier. We were talking about the books and which ones needed to be reordered. I was impressed with her knowledge and told her so.
She gave me a sort of dismayed look and said, "Since I've been doing this job, I find that the ONLY books I want to read are THESE books! (waving in the general direction of the display shelves) I hardly read regular books anymore, THESE are just so GOOD!"
Sister, join the club.
*Rules for Book Fairs 101:
Rule #3 -- Always have two people at each cash register for "event" selling