On May 15, 2021, in a partnership with Jasmin Merdach--author of Lilly, The Little Scientist & Germs--PATCH held its first ever storytime in the park. The PATCH admins ventured to Short Pump Park on this gorgeous May morning for setup, and I decided to bring my little along to spectate.
Looking over at my freshly two year old daughter, I had a horrific realization. We're about to read a book about germs (to a compulsive hand-washer), in the grass, followed by playtime with slime. My daughter has sensory quirks. She hates sitting on grass. She refuses to touch playdough. Let's just say we were beyond the facepalm emoji state of mind.
It's ok; she loves books--sorta. She's wearing capris, maybe she won't be as fidgety in the grass. And she adores the park, maybe she'll feel comfortable being around all those other kids at storytime and just...fit in.
Nope. Tiny Tyrant ran around like the wild-hearted spirit she is, in the vast circle of grass that storytime was held in, for nearly the entirety of the book (past the first page--I at least got that much out of her). I looked over to see the tiny group of kids that had formed a socially-distance huddle, immersed and fascinated in the contents of Merdach's story. There was a pang of yearning, and then my eyes wandered off to the picnic table that held our donation pile. It was a small, humbling pile of diapers, wipes, and other baby goodies.
I realized in that moment that PATCH's storytime was more than just a storytime. It was a moment for the community to relax. To be themselves. To be together, even if that togetherness needed to be a little more distanced than you'd expect (read: by this point, my two year old was so far away from the group, I'm pretty sure she couldn't even hear the author speaking).
PATCH's storytime was home.
I joined PATCH as a volunteer not really knowing what I was getting into; but in the year that I’ve been surrounded by this incredible group of people, I’ve witnessed elation, gratitude, and, most importantly, empathy. There isn’t a need to “fit in,” because everyone has their own story, and everyone is writing it the best they can.
Here’s to another beautiful year of meeting new people, building our Richmond home, and helping others to write their best narrative.