Doing my laundry at Colonial Laundromat, I was taken aback, a little, seeing a young couple, in their early twenties or younger, come in with a little girl. It was around 8:30 p.m. I get annoyed and dismayed when I see parents or guardians out and about with their kids when, in my view, it is bedtime. Worst is seeing a whole family traipsing through Wegmans or Tops at 11 p.m. of a school night. Inexcusable, in my old-world view. This wasn't that late, yet I did muse to myself, "Now? You have to do your laundry now?" But as I extracted my clothes from the dryer, I noticed the father presenting reading flash cards to the girl. He was patiently helping her sound out words or try to decipher sight words. The woman looked on, not saying a word or joining in. My head had a lot of questions about these roles, but I seized on positive aspects of this observation, and I did not want the moment to pass.
I approached the young man. "I applaud you for doing that. For reading with your daughter. Good for you. It's important."
"Nobody did that for me," he said. "I don't want her to be like me. They had to read the questions to me when I took an exam. I'm trying to help her."
"Well, good for you. It's never too early. How old is she?"
"Six," the girl interjected.
"You like to read?"
She scrunched her face up.
"You will. You'll get to like it. I read every day."
I'm not going to lie. I was lifted by this simple act.
And then I was deflated. Shortly after our little conversation, another guy walked in, with two girls, presumably his daughters, maybe slightly older than the six-year-old who was working on her reading. These girls might have been twins. It was now closer to 9 p.m. No books. No flash cards. Just laundry. No bedtime story, from a book or from memory. Not in the laundromat. Not tonight.