Family Tradition (The Hank Williams Jr Version)

image5One of the greatest blessing and curse in my life is that Gracie has turned out to be just like her father.

It’s a wonderful blessing because I married him, therefore I generally like his personality and quirks. Having two in the house makes things lively and entertaining.

It’s a curse because neither the child, nor her father, need a lot of sleep; they’re extremely strong-willed, and never sit still. These characteristics have served her dad well, as he’s in a high energy job that requires strong decision making skills during the long hours on his feet.

These characteristics in a toddler? I would laugh but I’m too tired.

It’s part of raising kids. We don’t get to decide what traits are passed down and which ones skip a generation; it’s the biggest dice roll (or game of russian roulette, depending on how you look at it) we have as parents.

Unfortunately for me, I inherited one of the greatest negative traits that has plagued my father, and now me. It’s haunted me through high school, college, and now as a youngish adult.

In the summer after tenth grade, I checked out Alexander Dumas’ Ten Years Later, the fourth installment of his Musketeer series. We took a family vacation to Charlotte, North Carolina for the PCA’s General Assembly. Somewhere on that trip, I lost the book. I still don’t know where or how, but when the time came to turn it back in, I couldn’t find it.

It was checked out from the Alabaster library. Thankfully, we lived about the same distance from the Pelham and Helena libraries. Once the fee got above the allowable amount to continue checking out books, I moved to another library. When I had racked up fees at all three, I would pay the minimum, and the dance would begin again.

I think the person that coined the phrase “If looks could kill” was referring to a librarian. Now, I may just be projecting, but there were two in particular at the Alabaster location that truly wished me evil every time I walked by the circulation desk. No words were ever exchanged; silence is treasured in a library, obviously. But the glances shot at me with sniper-like precision (above their bifocals) found their mark every time.

Unless there was a particular title or movie that I desperately wanted, and I couldn’t get transferred (yes, I was sneaky and would request interlibrary transfers from two libraries 3 miles apart to avoid paying a fine at one), I avoided the Alabaster location as much as possible. When I finally graduated high school, I had over $30 in library fines at that location alone.

But it was going to be ok; I was moving on campus at Belhaven, and college is all about a clean slate, right? Getting to create a new persona, leave the baggage of high school behind, and all that.

What I failed to realize is that college libraries have a much greater hold on you than city libraries. There isn’t a huge negative consequence when you have fines at a local library, other than being banned from checking out books. It’s not like the librarians can put a warrant out for your arrest.

College libraries have a close working relationship with the registrar. So you’ve been keeping that AP Manual longer than you intended? We’ll just put a hold on your grades for the semester, they say.  But you need it over the break to double-check capitalization requirements for a feature piece, you say.

I found a way out of that one, too. Turns out that they’ll still send President’s and Dean’s list letters regardless of if your grades can be posted or not. Outside of spring semester sophomore year (thanks, Chem II), I was on one or the other, so as long as I got a letter, I was golden.

Thankfully, the library at Belhaven knew that most students didn’t have the money to pay the exorbitant fines at the end of the spring semester. Each April they would hold a canned food drive and for each can, $1 of your fine would be removed. My brain quickly calculated that if I bought the absolute cheapest cans, I’d get 50 cents to the dollar. Which is why the local food pantry received 10 cans of creamed corn that spring.

The summer before my senior year of college rolled around, and I was home for a few weeks before my summer internship started (which I got thanks in part to those features I wrote between school breaks, take that Belhaven Library). My family was packing up for a quick trip to Jackson, because my dad had finished his Doctorate of Ministry and we needed to attend his graduation ceremony.

The phone rang five minutes— I’m not making this up, I remember the timing exactly— before we were to get in the car for the trip. I remember my mother answering because the caller ID said it was Reformed Theological Seminary.

“Jeff”, she said. “It’s the RTS Library”.

Our trip was delayed by about two hours, once my dad got off the phone. Due to his outstanding library fines, the seminary would not be bestowing his diploma until he either returned the books, or paid the fines. We waited patiently while he scoured the house and the church office looking for the 9 missing books.

I got my dad’s nose, his sense of humor, and his inability to handle library material responsibly.

That’d be a good place to end, but unfortunately, what triggered me writing this post is something that has happened more recently.

It’s important to note that I had a peaceful time of life from 2009-2016; my parents gave me a Kindle in hopes of breaking the cycle. With the exception of some fees from late audio books from my 2010 admission travel season (thankfully another canned food drive at the Brandon Library saved me),  my love of books wasn’t hindered.

It had been so long, in fact, that I had checked out a book, that I had completely forgotten that I had this trait. That’s the thing about personality traits- they may remain dormant, but they’re always there, ready to rise up and strike at the worse times.

My driver’s license was changed quickly after the move to our new home, so I could register to vote. Gracie was beginning to enjoy books, and I had spent way too much money the past two months on Audible books to get me through the long car trips and unpacking. One Tuesday morning last month, I carried Gracie proudly into our new library and told her this was a magical place, full of learning and adventure. We walked out with Gracie screaming, as usual, but I had a shiny new library card.

The first audio book I checked out was returned with a disc missing. Or so I’ve been told. I swear, that disc was in the box when I turned it in. I’ve received two phone calls from very stern women asking me to “keep looking for it”. The only place I kept the book was in my car, and I’ve cleaned it out twice looking for that dang Carol Higgins Clark CD.

I did find the third disc of a John Grisham novel, though.








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