Crickets - urban slang for absolute stillness, complete quiet, the sound of silence. Exactly how one would imagine life inside a library with librarians shushing the few whispers that make it to the desk - except at the Forest Public Library on a Tuesday night. Post-Covid Tuesday night at the library is certainly not what it used to be. This past Tuesday night, very few patrons visited the library between the hours of 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Crickets.
Because of its designation as late night at the library, Tuesday night was always programming night. Many of the programs were scheduled before closing; however, on very special nights, programs were scheduled after closing. These Tuesday night programs were called BACK DOOR EVENTS. Over a period of three years, the entertaining events became the most well-attended programs at the library.
BACK DOOR EVENTS were never still or quiet. Months of planning went into each program, which usually included a menu of food to fit the occasion. If the event was a book signing with an author from the Mississippi Delta, then the menu included Delta Grind grits, a magnolia cake from a local baker, and southern-fried catfish. If the event celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month, local Latino patrons served up homemade tamales, while children painted corn husks with spices and sang a traditional pinata song. And if the event celebrated the premiere of the Outlander television series, the menu included authentic Scottish fare of bannocks, shepherd's pie, and jam tarts.
Teens remember Tuesday nights for the Halloween BACK DOOR EVENTS when a corpse lay prostrate on a table filled with edible hearts, lungs, and red velvet cinnamon-roll intestines to be consumed by ghoulish protagonists from horror stories. They might eat crickets, but no one was ever quiet. These teens also rejected the clawingly sweet sentiments of Valentine's Day with a Love Bites program where sarcasm and saltiness were served up with heartbreak cookies and fries not guys! Of course, if someone asked the teens which menu stood out in their minds, it was the salute to Black History Month with pulled pork and collard green eggrolls and cornbread salad.
Life at the library was definitely festive on Tuesday nights, whether it was celebrating St. Patrick's Day, Fourth of July, Mardi Gras, Thanksgiving with Friends, or a Camino Island Christmas with Bruce Cable bow ties. Party-goers showed their books in exchange for Mardi Gras beads, donned their Scottish plaids while listening to live bagpipes, and visited their favorite John Grisham island while reading ONE BOOK. The highlight of every BACK DOOR EVENT was food - from New Orleans etouffee to coastal crab cakes. The sound of every event was a chorus of mirth.
Now, it's just crickets. Absolute silence. Complete quiet. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote these words in The Great Gatsby, Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall. As cooler weather indicates the change of yet another season and as libraries continue to plan virtual programs, some patrons wonder if life will ever start all over again. Some wonder if they will ever share lively conversations over delicious meals, or meet the candidates in person, or sing and dance with a live band. Some wonder if they will hear the squeal of children when the pinata bursts and everyone is scrambling on the floor for candy. Most wonder how long it will be until the next BACK DOOR EVENT.
For now, thanks to a pandemic, there is the plaguing sound of Tuesday night, which is actually no sound. Maybe a library is supposed to be quiet after all; just not this one.