Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lord of the Flies: Neighborhood Drama

Around the time we moved, LE decided he wanted to go outside and play in the street with the other kids. I told him he could when he was a little bit older, mostly because I'd seen all the kids on the street were a couple of years older, and I don't really know at what age you're supposed to start letting your kids go all free-range.

All day when the movers were here, he was bugging me to go outside. Seriously, few people can repeat the same things over and over as effectively as a 5-year-old, except perhaps Rain Man and most dogs. And then I got busy with doing something, and noticed that not only was one of the cats gone, the kid was gone too.

Turned out the cat had gotten onto the roof somehow, and the kid had simply let himself outside to play. It was kind of my first guess where he'd gone, so I didn't actually get that worried. I was so relieved not having to listen to him ask me over and over and over and over and over and over if he could go and play, and why why why why why why why why why why couldn't he go outside to play, I just went with it and left him out there.

I found the cat, too. Obviously. Or you would have heard about that in my ongoing tales of minor mishaps.

Things looked fine from up on the new balcony that overlooks the street now. Besides that, about 10 other mothers were watching their kids fiercely from their own balconies. There are a lot of women in my neighborhood who seem to do very little on hot summer days than sit around on their balconies. It must be nice but I'm glad I'm not them.

I figured all would be well. Azeri Teyze shouted down to LE, "Where's your mother?" and I said, "I'm here! He escaped." She looked up at me and said, "He's a very little boy!" and I said, "I know!" LE looked up and waved and said, "Hi, Mama!" and I said, "You scared the shit out me, not telling me where you were going," and he said, "Sorry, Mama," and ran off after his Calliou ball he'd thoughtfully brought down with him, clearly not in the mood for the lecture I was all ready to call down to him. Whatever. I had a lot to do. Plus he still says his "r"s kind of like "w"s and it kills me, partly because he's starting to say his "r"s right.

Ours is a dead-end street, by the way. I'm not as spectacularly bad of a mom as I would like to be. Every night after school LE goes to play with the kids in the street, and comes home ravenous and streaked with filth. I think it's cool. It seems super-healthy and cheerful somehow.

I also like sneaking out to watch what he does with the other kids. For the most part, they're really nice. They peripherally include him in their games, making him be the guy who has run off and fetch the stray ball, and sometimes they let him have a go at whatever they're doing. LE is too little to realize it sucks to be the guy who has to go fetch the balls that roll away.

Invariably, they play football. I despair somewhat at their lack of imagination, though they do a bit of role-playing, with taking dives and having fake fights and pretending to be their favorite players. They argue constantly.

Male posturing. International and inter-species.
LE holds his own. It's hilarious and sad and adorable. He postures and pretends to be a bully, gesturing like a minibus driver and tossing around light swear words like "lan," which the older boys think is cute and pinch his cheeks, and the younger ones hold him to it and bully him back. There's one kid who's a little mean, that does the, "Aren't you cute?" cheek-slapping a little too hard, or postures back at him, but when LE is taken aback the older kids step in and rub his head and distract him with something before he starts crying. Big kids here are naturally good with little kids like that. LE likes that mean kid the best.

Sometimes on the weekends the other kids LE's age come out to play. They cling to whatever adult brings them out, and don't even know how to kick the ball properly. LE still tries to include them, though, and they sometimes all go off together to play something besides football. Usually it involves running in circles around the house next door. LE never knows if they're chasing someone or running away from someone, or even which one they're chasing or running away from, but he doesn't give a shit.

Fuck Calliou.
LE always takes his Calliou ball out to play, and often his winter gloves when he wants to be the goalie. He doesn't like the regular ball the big kids use, because it hurts when it hits him in the face. All the kids humor him and use the Calliou ball.

Poor Piggy.

The slightly younger kids, probably the ones who had to be Piggy before LE came along, have allowed LE into their splinter group. They're probably just happy there's someone else to be Piggy. One of them is a chunky kid about 7 who can't keep up with the others and often has a tube of Chococrem or Balparmak, which he's happy to share. The other is graceful and coordinated and seems to be on the verge of getting in with the 9-11 year old bunch.

Madness, of the complete and utter variety.
They spend a lot of time trying to figure out LE's nationality. They've seen him with me, which must mean he's foreign. Except he speaks Turkish. It blows their minds. Yesterday, they all saw when LE's grandparents dropped him off, that they all were Turkish. They asked him his surname and declared him Turkish. LE explained that he's also American. Then he shouted up for me to give him a glass of water. "Come upstairs," I told him. "Just use the basket!" he replied. "What basket?" I answered. The other kids' mothers lower baskets of food and water and toys on demand.

Today as we came home from school, the kids were playing a different game, with Nerf guns. LE was hesitant to join, but he also wanted me to go away. Clearly I have become wicked uncool. I kissed his cheek anyway because he still lets me, and went upstairs. By the time I got to the balcony he seemed to have worked things out. He shouted up to me that he wanted his Iron Man wristband, and as he left the group to come upstairs and get it, he told the other kids he had a big surprise for them. A few times. They ignored him but he didn't care.

This whole Lord of the Flies street thing is deeply pleasing and deeply devastating at the same time.

When I went out to get LE for dinner, he was nowhere to be seen. So I went to turn off the stove and drain the ravioli. When I went back out, LE was standing behind a car weeping bitterly. It wasn't a hurt crying (I'm forever shocked I can recognize what kind of crying it is), and I called to him to come up, but he refused. An older boy was trying to gentle him out of crying. The LE decided to come in. I opened the apartment door for him, but before he could come up, I heard a gaggle of women gather downstairs around him.


Um, not on my street.
So I put on the sort of top one might wear outside (the it's-1,000-degrees-in-the-house-braless-tank wasn't gonna cut it), and went down to make a show of being an overprotective mom. Three women had LE all gathered up trying to comfort him, while another two were off bawling out the other kids and trying to find out what they had done. A third bustled out with some terlik for me because I wasn't wearing shoes. LE's crying had reached the point of hiccuping and he was hard to understand, but it turned out all that had happened was that the kids had told him he couldn't play whatever Nerf thing they were up to.

Callous as it might be, I found them completely justified in this, as usually they alter their games to include LE. He's kind of like an annoying little brother for them, and I think they're pretty cool about it. As much as I dislike the whole Lord of the Flies thing he's suddenly cast himself into, that's life and it's only going to get worse, and more unfair, and meaner and bloodier. At least he still wants to wrap his skinny, smelly little arms around me.

The neighborhood moms, though, were all crushed that he was crying. Not that I blame them. LE when he is crying is gorgeous and heartbreaking, with the trembling pout and fat tears and dirt-streaked suntanned cheeks. There was a chorus of exclamation to this effect from everyone around us and from several balconies every time he buried his perfect wet snotty face in my neck.

Fuck yeah!
Once home, he forgot about it in minutes because Tom and Jerry is always on YouTube. He even let me show him Ren and Stimpy. I explained to him that sometimes things are going to happen like that with other kids because he's still little, and that it'll make him feel like crying but he can't always cry about stuff like that. He hiccuped that it was bullshit they did that. He also reminded me to return the terlik to the neighbor after he went to sleep. Then he passed out to Shel Silverstien after having seconds on ravioli and a scrubby bath.

Later on, I found a Nerf bullet on the balcony and threw it down to the kids in the street. One of the mothers leaned out asked if she could come up, and she did, bearing a plate of homemade pastries. She apologized her kid had done that, and I told her I think her kid is great for letting LE play with them.

And thus, order was restored to the street. I hope. Goodness knows I'm always doing or saying something wrong around here.

1 comment:

Nomad said...

So when are you writing your book. You've got all the "mater"ial you'll need. (a bit pretentious pun, sorry.)
I would seriously consider it because your writing is easy to read and always interesting. Seriously.