Theology in the Trenches: Ms. Happy Toes

Kathleen Kjolhaug
Religion Columnist

With two child car seats newly installed in the backseat, freedom rang within grandma. I could now officially load up the grandkids and take them wherever I so pleased. As nap time was around the corner, I had just enough leeway to do something other than the daily routine.

With my new found confidence in having just mastered the TV remote, I was ready. Google Maps was next on my list, and so aiming it in the direction of the public library, we were off.

Finding our way to the children’s corner was the next feat as the colorful computers drew the two little ones like magnets. However, every button pressed seemed to give little in return, keeping the screen as blank as the look upon their faces. After several attempts, I gave up to the tune of, “Let’s go look at books! Grandma understands how those work!”

Just in the nick of time, a volunteer redirected our footsteps. 

“There is a special program going on at the moment that you might enjoy if you just follow me.”

To a room filled with other little people and their caretakers is where we found shelter and soon began giving lip service to the music being sung by all. 

As I looked around, one little family stood out above the rest. The caretaker was wiggling her toes to the tunes while bouncing a little one upon her knee and charmed at her second child who sat beside her. They had it all. The answers to the questions being asked, tamed children, and every mother’s dream of how a perfect day at the library should go. As I was feeling less successful by the second, I found myself becoming irritated with the happy stranger before me. 

That’s when it happened. The instructor made the announcement loud and clear for all to hear.

“And today,” she said. “We have one young person with us who has just completed reading 1000 books before Kindergarten!” 

Sure enough, Miss Happy Toes looked at the child beside her while nodding her head to make sure her child knew it was he they were talking about.

Befuddled at this marvel I was not alone. Beside me another young mama spoke up just loud enough for me to hear. “Well I read books to my child, but I didn’t know I was supposed to count them!” 

Could I let it rest at that? Nope, I could not. 

Approaching the instructor, I asked. “Is there a list of books that you are supposed to be reading to students before Kindergarten?” 

Her reply was negative, that any ole book will do.

And that’s when I turned to Ms. Happy Toes. “So, how did you do that? I mean, keeping track of 1000 books?”

“Oh,” she simply replied. “I just kept reading the same ten books over and over and over again. You know, they like that. In fact, when we drove to the cities, I had the words memorized so I just kept reading aloud as my child turned the pages in the back seat. There are no rules. You just have to read 1000 books!”

As I exhaled deeply, I was reminded of the one tune that does ring familiar. “The Joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Perhaps it is from this very well that springs forth the joy in the steps of Ms Happy Toes. For all I know, we could be sisters in Christ and not merely competitors at the library. Amen. 

(Kathleen Kjolhaug is a religion columnist.)