The Talbot County Free Library Honors Parents
by Bill Peak
After Tristram died, Melissa and I swore we would never get another
dog. It was just too painful to lose so dear an animal after knowing
and loving him for so long. But a while back, after twenty-some-odd
dogless years, we broke down and adopted a 2-year-old Black Mouth Cur
from a rescue place outside Philadelphia. Cherokee has a reddish
coat, floppy ears, black muzzle, and kohl-rimmed eyes that would melt
the stoniest heart. I spoil her with bones from the Amish Market, the
best spot by the fire, and long walks through the countryside around
our house. Melissa's health has been poor for some time now, and it
does us both a world of good to have a creature around whose spirit is
so consistently upbeat and joyful. When I take Cherokee for a walk,
she runs and jumps for no other reason than that she can, a young
animal kicking up its heels, in love with being alive.
Last week, on my way into town, I got stuck behind an eighteen-wheeler
hauling an immense load of chickens to market. It was a gray and
rainy day, and as I sat there at the light on 50, I found myself
feeling sorry for all those poor animals stuffed in cages, unable to
escape each other or the cold rain beating down on them. And then I
did a mental double-take. We live in chicken country. Who knows how
many times I've been stuck behind a truck hauling chickens to market?
And while I've often thought the birds' condition sad, I've just as
often been more concerned with escaping the smell than worrying about
their wellbeing. So what, I wondered, brought on this unusual burst
And with a happy look on its face, the answer pranced up, licked my
cheek, and wagged its tail. Cherokee, of course. Having placed
myself for some time now in thrall to the moods and needs of another
species, I found it easy to slip into the consciousness of even so
different an animal as those poor, miserable fowl destined for
someone's dinner plate.
Mr. Perdue can relax, I'm not going to become a vegetarian anytime
soon. But it did make me think. If a lone mutt can affect one's
perspective that much, what other imponderables are out there doing
And then, of course, I thought about the library. Not for want of
trying, Melissa and I never got to have any kids. Which means that,
when I went to work at the library, for the first time in my adult
life I got to experience and work with children close-up, discover all
their many wonderful manifestations. It was as if the library had
gathered all our community's children to its substantial lap and given
me permission to care for them. I'm not sure I understand the process
involved, but I am sure there was something about being around all
those little ones—so utterly dependent upon the goodwill of the adult
world—that was good for me, made me a better human being. Certainly
nowadays, when I see one of those televised reports of lifeless little
bodies being pulled from the wreckage of yet another pointlessly
bombed-out building, my heart aches as it never did before.
Which, in turn, makes me think about all the mothers and fathers it
has been my privilege to watch come into the Talbot County Free
Library, children in tow. If getting to work with children, care for
children, has made me more sympathetic to all children (and, by
extension, all people), how much more profound must the effect be on
Mom and Dad?
If I'm right about this—and I think I must be, for I see such
inter-family sympathies occurring in our library every day—then those
who would bring a child into the world must, in the bargain, accept a
new and higher level of sympathy for all humans and all life.
Parents, people who have willingly taken on the burden and travail of
raising little ones, may well be the last great hope for our world.
Yet again the people we serve at the Talbot County Free Library have
taught me a valuable lesson. As we approach Mother's Day, with
Father's Day following not far behind, I thank them, I thank all those
who so selflessly pass on life from one generation to the next.