Sunday, May 20, 2007

Caught in a time warp. Don't send help.

A flock of geese and a handful of mallard ducks summer at Crystal Lake, a little pond in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, the town where I grew up. We used to ride our bike to the lake with bags of bread to feed the birds. My mom always issued the same admonition: "Those geese are mean."

As my husband and I arrived at the Shawnee Mission Park marina yesterday, we passed about 75 Canadian geese scrounging for food in the grass. They didn't look too vicious, but I locked the car doors, just in case.

About twenty yards from the geese stood a three-year-old boy in denim overalls. He was holding a dime store pinwheel, its blades spinning wildly in the wind. The child's sneaker toes extended over the curb as he watched the pinwheel, unaware of geese or burgers cooking or his father approaching from the picnic ground behind him.

We slowed way down to smile and wave, and the boy's dad encouraged him to wave back.

So much innocence in that moment: the little boy perfectly contented with a simple pinwheel, a family picnic in the park on a Saturday afternoon, a dad who, instead of calling 9-1-1, smiled at us and allowed his son to wave at two empty nesters on a joy ride.

(The geese were probably innocent, too. innocent as geese can be.)


Jas P. said...

Do you find that as you get older, you value innocence more and more? Like everything else that seems to have been lost along the way? Is it really just that we don't know what we've got till it's gone?

My hair, for instance. And the pure pinwheel experience, where we're not distracted or critical of the pinwheel's construction, or comparing its spin to something else. I used to wonder what Yeats meant by "the ceremony of innocence," because I thought he meant an event, rather than a state. But it's just the sacredness of experience purely delivered, right?

It's great when you get to attend the ceremony without even being invited. The Pinwheel Ceremony, in this case. I'm glad those meany birds didn't ruin it.

"And what rough geese, their hour come round at last, honk from 79th Street to be born?"

Tina said...

Hi Molly! I found your blog. Hope that's okay. (Blame Jim. That's what I do.)

Your mentioning a dad not calling 911 reminded me of something astounding that happened a few weeks ago.

I was driving up my street, and pulled over to hand off something to my neighbor (remaining in my car). She was outside with her two young'uns, talking to a woman I didn't know, who also had two kids. As I handed off the thing I needed to hand off, my neighbors' girls ran up to my car, yelling, saying hi, what have you. The two other little kids followed them, too, catching their excitement. Immediately the unknown woman snapped her head around to her kids, yelling, "GET BACK HERE! SHE IS A STRANGER! YOU DO NOT KNOW HER!"

Yeah. Me, in my corporate-casual wear, sitting in my suburb-required SUV, with my own 4-year old in the backseat...not 50 yards away from my own cookie-cutter safe haven, just MIGHT do some sort of evil to her kids.

Amazing. The good thing is, every time I see some similar display of paranoia (which is quite often, in my neighborhood of organic, anti-TV, stay-at-homers) I think it loosens me up just that much more with my own kid.

Not to mention: we have a pond in our neighborhood with HUNDREDS of mean geese! I'm gonna keep one in my car, just in case I see that woman again. I can throw it at her kids.

mol the doll said...

Jim, I never thought much about what makes something innocent. It seems to me it might be the absence of negative context.

I love Tina's story about being a stranger in her own neighborhood. There are all kinds of stimuli conspiring to make kids fearful...too bad the parents feel the need to join in.

Steve and I are anomalies in Greystone West. Once when the kids were small they were playing at a neighbors. Somebody rang my doorbell, and there was Travis, the soon-to-be-homeschooled neighbor. "Mrs. Jackson? John and Joey just used the Lord's name in vain. Thought you'd want to know."

About a week earlier I'd grabbed for a donut at a poolside brunch just as some kid's mom was starting to say grace.

And so it's gone.

Tina, we really should compare notes about this stuff. I may be able to save you from holding PTA jobs of increasing responsibility until one day you're running the freaking carnival.

Not hypothetically,