I was in the library, in the DVD aisle.  I was on one side of the tall shelves (“drama”), and on the other side (“mystery, sci-fi, westerns”) was a mother and two daughters.  I guess that one daughter was age 10 or so, and the other about five.  I never saw them; I only heard them.

The mom was silently reading the titles and pulling down her choices, but the older daughter was helping.  She would read out a title, and the mom would give a one sentence summary of the movie and her verdict.  She spoke to her daughters intelligently and frankly.  The descriptions were not sugar-coated, but it was clear from her tone that some of these titles were never going home with them.  She was an educated, conscientious, modern mother.

I heard the older daughter read a particular title.  The mom said matter-of-factly, “That’s a movie about a serial killer.”  The five-year-old processed that description, then said:  “Is that a movie about a man who kills his cereal?  Does he kill his breakfast?” 

What do you say?  The mom didn’t answer, although she started to twice.

My initial reaction was to think, “How cute!  How funny!”  I smiled, but the smile was short-lived. 

That mother, and an eavesdropping stranger, standing at the same spot but unseen to one another, suddenly found themselves at the intersection of innocence and evil, naïveté and brute reality, childhood and commerce. 

Out of the mouths of babes.

Mr. Oliphant goes to libraries in Virginia.