KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
It’s 7:30. Not in the evening. 7:30 a.m. It’s Saturday. Why is my door being rapped upon?
It’s my neighbor’s kid, Dion. He’s a cool little chubbster but man does he pick the worst times to want to hang out. He’s probably been up for quite a bit, trading in cartoons for running around the street on Saturday morning.
Me and the Mrs. have watched him grow up. In fact, when we first moved in, our introduction was him running butt ass naked into our neighbors’ bushes. He enjoys taking his electric dirt bike off sick jumps and boy does the kid have an arm. But why is he knocking on my door?
The above picture is a typical day when Dion is knocking on our door to see if he can throw sticks to our younger dog, Maizey. He loves our dogs, as do most of the neighborhood children. They remind me of Hey Arnold! When it comes to playing, there is no race, creed, religion or color. Only play. Although a beefy 70 lbs., Maizey nannies them like her own babies, as she’s kind of grown up alongside them. It’s funny, when we take the dogs out, Maizey always looks over at Dion’s house to see if he’s outside. They are good friends.
Sometimes, Dion will show up to my house with his baseball glove and ball. Sometimes a football. Sometimes, he tries to invite himself into our place. And sometimes, I don’t really have the energy to deal him. You parents have it tough, man. A lot of the kids in our neighborhood don’t really have a visible male presence in their lives, and sometimes they want me to be that guy.
Several children often look to us for attention. Last spring, when we were working outside and planting seeds, we got inundated by children looking to “learn” to garden. By learn, I mean they wanted to “help”. And by help, I mean they wanted to put their fingers in dirt and one day see some peppers. I had my pepper seed planter all ready to go. Even though it took double the time it usually would, I’m happy to instill gardening to the younger kids. It’s important for kids to know where their food comes from and spend time outdoors. There’s a lot of wonder in them and I’m fine helping foster that before I send them home to their parents when they get cranky.
We recently decided to take a stroll around the block and my other neighbors kids decided they were going to walk with us. Our neighbors trust us for absolutely no reason and they probably enjoy the 30 minutes of peace and quiet that we didn’t exactly offer but also didn’t exactly forbid. The kids of our neighborhood are the last bastion of those that still go out and play until dark. Maybe it’s the working-class attitude in me, but it makes me happy seeing the kids out playing.
We have a basketball hoop out in front of our house that just kind of appeared one day. At first, we were mad because of the noise. But then a group of what I imagine were older middle school kids were out there playing with a deflated basketball, and we couldn’t allow that to continue. Mrs. Madoff recently bought a cigarette lighter plug in air pump for our car tires, which we used to inflate their basketballs. Always do something nice if it costs you nothing. Truthfully, it makes me feel good to throw the football or baseball, or to ask them how their day is. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for and a little bit goes a long way. I guess I’m becoming soft as I get older, but the neighborhood kids have changed from an annoyance to a happy presence.
I often think about if these kids will even remember hanging out with us. Then, I think about my own experience as a kid. I had cool older people that would hang out with us named Tina and Mike and their dog Kona, and they enriched my childhood. In a weird sort of way, I feel like it’s homage and paying it forward for how my neighbors were. They didn’t have to, but they did. Sadly, I’ve lost track of them due to time but the spirit of giving parents a breather lives on.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not and repeat, do not want kids but it is nice to have them for a bit. I can give them back to their parents, spoil them and rile them up and wash my hands.