Beating up the wrong guy
Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know
He's in the best selling show
Is there life on Mars?
David Bowie - Life On Mars?
It was what some would call a cute neighborhood. That is there are no grand mansions, nor even any large houses. Nothing ostentatious. Of course no urban blight. Just a lot of quaint houses where quaint families lived quaint lives. These are the kind of homes that nice young couples buy. They are bright professional people, perhaps teachers or nurses or designers. They are in their late 20s, recently married. Their days of sexual promiscuity are past. Their world travels with a backpack and camera are over. They’ve done much of the reading they’ll ever do and have started the process of settling into life. Philosophical discussions over wine and marijuana are giving way to PTA meetings with coffee and muffins. Their political views are tempered from the white heat of college when they were swept up into radical causes. Now their political expression comes in the form of buying locally and passionately recycling. They have a TV, but won’t risk getting cable for fear they’ll watch it too much. Most of their entertainment comes from their stereo and public radio. They like to dance still but only occasionally. They will soon have children. Two. With a midwife. Their diminishing social life will virtually vanish as they set about building their lives around their children. Weekends will consist of trips to the library and the YMCA, with children in tow. They’ll set up play dates for their children. Sign them up for youth soccer and violin or piano lessons. They’ll be active in their children’s education and will volunteer for school committees and field trips. They will love their children unconditionally and be regarded as good parents. They will attend weddings, and funerals, go backpacking several times a year, make it to Europe one Summer for a month. They will be respected at their jobs where they will receive promotions and accolades. The children will grow up to be fine students with 3.8 GPAs and modest success on school athletic teams. The boy will give up the piano, the girl will stick to the violin. The mother will suddenly and tragically contract pancreatic cancer at age 53 and die two years later. As the children head off to college the father will finally begin dating again although truthfully he’ll grieve for the rest of his life. At 60 he will remarry. At 80 he will be widowed again and himself in failing health will be put into a nursing home by his children who themselves are both married and live in similar nice neighborhoods. The house will be sold to another young couple just starting out.
It was this kind of neighborhood that I spent my first three years on planet Earth. There was a tot lot nearby where mother took me. Initially I just sat in the buggy and cooed at the clouds catching sight of an occasional tree branch and even -- oh goodness how exciting -- a bird in flight. As I began to gain use of my legs mother took me by the hand and we strolled about the park which took up one lot on the corner of McGee and Grant. (It’s still there.) As a two year old the park seemed impossibly large well past my capacity to explore. The swing was a particular delight it made me feel completely free and wonderful and forever happy and attached to nature itself to fly heavenward and back. I laughed with delight but pumped my legs purposefully to add my own impetus to the affair.
I made friends in the park. I do not recall them but one -- I was told -- boasted American Indian heritage. Friendship was a cherished discovery. It offered greater opportunities for fun. Two and three could add a dimension of play to what one could do. I soon learned that above all else I enjoyed fun. It pushed away that nagging cloud.
That awful out of place cloud. That ruiner of everything. That menace that appeared from time to time. That ugly among the beauty. The spoiler. The reality the truth that I wanted to deny. That would not go away. Mom’s other side. That harsh angry inconsistent voice that came from my dear old mom but seemed from another source. A dark evil twisted one. Nurturing loving mom transformed into something obscene and unfamiliar. Not mom.
But the neighborhood. Was so nice. Masked everything it did.