The Hess Report


Saturday, June 07, 2003

Summer is almost here. Yippity freaking do.

Already, the three neighborhood orphans have begun their daily rounds. One of the families from down the street has two daughters, ages 8 and 5. For pretty much the entirety of the daylight hours, they run around the neighborhood, completely unadorned by parents. I know that I did that when I was their age, sort of, but times really were different then. They're not bad kids, these two, but I just don't know how to take them. Yesterday, one had roller blades and one had a bike. For hours... yes, hours... they motorvated the same half-mile loop, one end of which was in the cul-de-sac on which my house sits. Now, this was no mystery to me. I've seen repetitive behavior like this before. It's usually in Discovery Channel footage of bad zoos, where the animals are driven mad by their poor living conditions and find comfort walking the same path over and over. Am I saying those kids are crazy zoo animals? Naahhh. Or, to put it another way, yeah.

Of course, the third member of their band is the true neighborhood orphan. She's about the same age. Some days, school days even, she will walk the loop, including our cul-de-sac, ALL. DAY. LONG. By herself. With a zoned look on her face. Freaking weird, scary and sad all at the same time. She lives with her mom (we think) in the apartments around the bend. The consensus is that her mom in not quite right. She just wandered into our back yard one day last summer and joined in playing with the girls and I. Okay, I thought, kind of kooky, but whatever. She didn't say much, and I could tell that she wasn't used to playing the way that we were all playing, which was heavy on the interpersonal role playing/imagination stuff. And she just wouldn't leave. When we went inside for dinner, she was still out my yard, standing on one of the pieces of play equipment, just staring off into space. I gave her a couple of minutes, figuring she'd get bored and leave. I had to eventually go outside and tell her that she couldn't just hang out in my yard. I didn't like having to do that, and if I were her, I probably wouldn't have wanted to go home. But, you know, I have two kids, not three. If I had wanted three, there were other, more fun ways to go about getting another one. So, once again, weird, scary and sad.

Well, during the summer, she has the two aforementioned semi-orphans (who aren't nearly as weird, just mildly annoying) to team up with. And team up they do: biking, marching, running, non-stop throughout the day. Check that. Not exactly nonstop, and this is where the annoying part comes in. If any one of us (myself, Joy, Maddie, Lucy, anyone) is visible from the street, whether we be just inside the front window or screen door, or outside over the hill on the swing set, or in the front yard, they will stop, right at curb, and just stand there and look at you. And Heaven forbid that you even open your mouth or smile at them, because then they have you. That's all the invitation they need, and they're stuck to you like a booger sticks to your finger when you're trying to surreptitiously fling it off. And it doesn't help that Maddie, if she sees them will yell "Hi!" and Joy and I cringe, and try to varnish the explanation of why we can't say Hi to them. You see Maddie, some people are like vampires...

I know. I know. The poor kids probably just want adult attention. I think that most kids do. If they can't get it from their parents, then they'll get it from anyone who seems willing to give it. Eventually, they'll go so far as to read a simple smile as the go-ahead for surrogate parenthood, and then latch onto you a robot-handed death grip.

And maybe the kids just really like running in obsessive circles around the neighborhood all freaking day, and their parents are at home begging them to just cuddle on the couch for five minutes so they can read them a book. Maybe they really are. Who knows? Well, me, for one. When we had our perv/home invader several months ago, one man on our street kind of went ballistic when he heard about it. He said, in all seriousness, that had he known where the perp was going he would have run him over with his truck. He was really earnest about it. He seemed quite concerned about the whole situation. Nowadays, while Maddie and Lucy are under my supervision, I do not let them out of my sight. Period. Joy more or less does the same. But this guy who was so disturbed by our intruder and so ready to deal out death by monster truck, well he's the one letting his kids run all over the place. And that doesn't make any sense to me. "I love my kids so much that if anyone tried to hurt them, why, why, why I'd plow him over with my truck! No where’s safe anymore! This world is sick! Oh, what? No I don't have time to play, kids. Just go outside or something. Daddy's busy ranting."

But other than that, summer’s going to be great. Well, other than that and the humidity. And the bugs. And the AC-from-hell-bent electric bills. And the West Nile Virus. Mmmmmmm... West Nile Virus....


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