I don’t live in the nicest neighborhood. I try to be positive about it. In fact, if you’ve ever heard me talk about I was probably saying something positive like how I love that my kids’ best friends are kids named Kasem and Angel and that I think it’s cool that most of the kids in their classes speak other languages. And that there’s a Costco at the end of my street.
I figured that this was where we could afford to live, so this was where we had to live so I really needed to find positive things about the neighborhood. And I think I did a pretty darn good job. But then Saturday came a long and I accepted the fact that despite its obvious attractions, my neighborhood just isn’t a very nice place to live.
You see the Princess and the Pea were next door playing with their friends, a little girl the Princess’s age and twin boys two years older. Their father lives next door to us and the kids are there every other weekend and one weeknight a week. The kids were playing in an old camping trailer that lives in his carport. I don’t love them playing in there, for reasons that should be fairly obvious, but the father usually sits on his back steps, about 5 feet away so I allow it.
So the kids were there playing and I was home with the little guys when there was a knock on my back door. I answered it and it was a young girl (about 13) from across the street who was just checking to see if the Pea was ok.
“Um what? Why wouldn’t he be ok?”
“Well, Billy (on of the 11 yr old boys next door) made him cry.”
“Well, he’s not home so he must be fine.” I wasn’t really worried at this point, kids fight and they make up and I try not to get involved.
Of course, while I was talking to this girl at my back door the Pea had come in the front door. “He’s right there,” the girl said pointing behind me where the Pea was now standing.
He was standing there, tear streaked but not crying and he said he was fine. “Well, he’s ok so thanks for coming over,” I said.
“Oh and your daughter has an inappropriate mouth,” the girl tossed off as a parting shot before she walked away.
So I asked the Pea what happened. His story was not linear and pretty unclear but what I got from it was that the kids were playing in the trailer, and father wasn’t around and there was a baseball bat involved.
Shall I understate it and say that I was concerned?
So I went over there. As I was walking across the front of my house I could see the same girl who had just been at my back door with two of her… brothers? cousins? relatives? (The house across the street is inhabited by a large pacific islander family [the family is large, the people actually, not so much] including a lot of children, mostly boys, and I’ve never been able to figure out how most of them are related.) of roughly the same ages. The had an aluminum baseball bat and upon seeing me they began walking away from the trailer.
And this is the story as near as I could reconstruct it: The father had left to get a movie. (In his defense, his kids are 11, 11 and 9 and he lives next door to his mother, who watches his kids for him some and who was home.) The kids, mine and his, had been playing in the trailer and the older bat wielding kids had been playing in the street. Some of the trailer kids (not mine, I was assured. Un hunh.) started yelling… unkind things at the kids in the street so naturally the kids in the street came over and began beating on the trailer with the aluminum bat. Some time in the middle there the Pea had gotten out of the trailer as had the other girl the Princess’s age. So the Princess was in there alone with the older boys and was sure that if she tried to leave she was going to be beaten to death with a bat.
Again with the understatement, I’m going to say that I was unhappy with the situation.
So I got the Princess out of there and laid down the rule that my kids are not to go into the trailer again EVER. I mentioned to the street kids, now across the street, that they probably should not have used a bat to work out their problems and that they may want to make a point of going and apologizing to the father when he got home because he would probably notice the window that they had broken. I talked with the Princess about appropriate language. (She swears she didn’t say anything and actually, I believe her. [You’d have to know the Princess.]) And I talked to her about the fact that she is not ever to be alone with either of those, or any other, boys with the possible exception of her brothers.
And I decided that we’re going to have to move.
For those interested, in the future I may post some of the other stories about the neighborhood just so that you can all shake your heads and wonder exactly how stupid, blind and nieve I am that it took me this long to decide to move.