The undead, the beautiful, and the very disappointed

My mother advised that before choosing a neighborhood, we go to the local grocery store and observe. My fourth grade teacher said the same thing: the only people who don’t have to go to the grocer store are the super-super rich who have someone else to shop for them. Everyone else, needing to eat, needs to buy food.

But among the moms-of-toddler set, the other place you can go to get a reasonable cross-section of a local population is the playground.

Witness: as I sat beside Kiddo#4 on one of the baby pieces of equipment, we were approached by a kindergarten-age girl wearing a pink top glittery with sequins.

“What’s his name?” she said.

I told her his  name, then told her mine.

She said, “Mine is Carleigh.”

(All names have been changed to protect identities but keep the flavor.)

“Hello, Carleigh,” I said.

She waited, her eyes locked on mine. And then she put some steel into her voice: “Isn’t that a pretty name?”

Ah, I’d missed my cue.  I’m betting that  nine times out of ten, when she tells someone her name, that’s what they say because if you’re an adult and a little girl tells you her name, it’s almost reflexive. It’s not as if you’re going to respond with, “So what do you think of health insurance reform?” or “Did you hear the results of the Rangers game last night?”

I agreed that Carleigh was a pretty name, and thus propitiated, she trotted off to play with more insightful children who would instinctively recognize the glory of the letters printed on her birth certificate.

Because Angelborough is tiny, it’s a guarantee you’re going to recognize some of the kids on the playground, and Kiddo#3 met up with some classmates. Later, one of the mothers earned the children’s eternal awe by whipping out a box of popsicles and distributing them. Kiddo#3 got a purple one. Kiddo#4 asked for some, and since it was a double-pop, we split it in half.

Five minutes later, my winter-pale rumple-haired baby stood, purple-lipped, with purple dribbles drying around his chin and streaking his hands. He reminded me of nothing more than Twilight’s Edward Cullen.

As my undead baby finished his popsicle by my side, a tiny girl positioned herself between us. “My name is Tina,” she said.

I stupidly forgot to reassure her it was a beautiful name, but she didn’t care because it turned out she had bigger fish to fry. I told her Kiddo#4’s name and mine.

“Where did he get that popsicle?” she asked without telling me my name was pretty either.

I said “Some mother gave it to him.”

She stood up and looked me right in the eye (we were at eye-level with her standing and me sitting on the ground) and she said, “I would love to have a red popsicle.”

WHAMMO!!!  Did you see the thing she fired at my head? It was a HINT.

I said, “Yes, I would love to have a red popsicle too.”

And then, because  I was too stupid or too obstinate to produce her magic red popsicle, she immediately set off to find another mother who would provide one.

I love the playground. I really do.


  1. littlehouseofpenguins

    This seems really appropriate, given that just yesterday we were driving around looking for a playground, and the one we finally found made me nervous, what with all the adult men just wandering around in the middle of the workday and the graffitti all over the playground equipment. No kids, no popsicles.

    You must look like a really approachable mom to all those little kids who approach you. Love the popsicle description.

    1. philangelus

      Part of it is that I’m climbing the equipment with my kids. That’s a big reason to have kids: so I can play on the playground again. I like climbing and swinging and sliding, but people look at you weird if you’re an adult doing it solo. (As you pointed out above: adults just don’t belong there.)

      The rest of it may be that they instinctively recognize my immaturity! 😀

      The adult men wandering around would make me feel a little nervous too. 🙁 Like dudes, what are you *doing* here? Do they at least bring a book, or do they sit on the benches leering at the little kids? 0.o !!

  2. Ivy

    Odd kid story. I was on the bus this morning, knitting a shawl (KALender mystery, not Evenstar). I was on the aisle seat. Across the aisle sat a little girl and next to her sat her mother.

    The girl leaned over and asked. “Whatca doing?”
    “Whatcha knitting?”
    “A shawl.”
    “Teach me.”

    I might have been stupid at this point, but I glanced at the mom, who seemed utterly disinterested in all of this (I took this as tacit permission) and I had just run a lifeline, so I figured, why not? I showed her the knit stitch, and let her throw some garter stitch rows on to my shawl. Then I started teaching her to purl. By this point we’d hit the tunnel, so figure I’d spent around half an hour with her on the knit stitch. Out of nowhere the mother screamed, “What are you doing to my child?” The only words that could come out of my mouth were, “Teaching her to knit”.

    I think she might have said more, but the lady sitting next to me and the gentleman sitting behind the child both jumped to my defense.

    I’ve seen adults in the playground many times. They read, or chat, or gather around those tables that have a chess board painted on top and have a game. It’s funny, but over at Madison Square park one summer, there was a little chess tournament between a priest, a rabbi, and an imam. The mosque was right next to the church and the synagogue was across the street, and I guess they just got to playing chess together. It was very New York, and very amusing.

  3. cricketB

    Also look out for big kids who are supposed to be looking after little kids, but are totally uninterested in doing so. Interesting peeks into the families. Some are bored, others never learned how to deal with a toddler’s short legs.

    Yep, parents playing on the monkey bars are a good sign.

  4. Ken Rolph

    We bought our current house because we discovered that the city library was open on Sunday afternoon when we were scouting the area.

    Jan teaches in a well-off private school in an area full of McMansions. The other staff were bewildered by our touring the area to check it out before buying a house. They only thought of the house itself. It might as well have been on the moon as far as they were concerned. But I suppose their houses are so big they constitute a scouting mission in themselves.

    This is an area where 18 year old senior students can’t go on excursions to museums because they’ve never caught a train and aren’t allowed to do so. Some people don’t live in their local community at all.

    1. philangelus

      The death of the “neighborhood” is one of the tragedies of suburbia.

      1. Ken Rolph

        The neighbourhood is alive and well in suburbia. I think these people live somewhere else. They have large houses on large blocks in newly cleared areas. There are no shopping centres, no hairdressers, no doctors, no post office, no service stations. Neighbourhoods and suburbs have all these. The McMansion zone in Australia is something else. I think people go there to get away from everything.

        Isn’t it strange that when people get very rich in the city, they retire to the bush and live like feudal lords on little pretend farms, with horses and servants. McMansion zone is like that, except without the horses and servants. That would be too messy.

      2. Ivy

        Come back to NY. Flatbush still has that neighborhood feel, where, when you’re a kid, all 100,000+ residents seemed to know your mother. I get stopped on the street all the time. “I just saw Sharron in the grocers” or “I ran into Sharron’s father yesterday. Tell him Barbara said hi.” You often see someone poke a person who is asleep on the bus to let them know their stop is coming up. Suburbia just feels kind of cold sometimes, like it’s a static world and intruders are most definitely Not Wanted. Well, except the yarn shops. Yarn shops are a whole different universe.

        1. Ken Rolph

          In Australia suburbs and neighbourhoods are the same thing. We don’t really have cities in the same model as Europe and North America. In the central business districts there is just central business and a few residents.

          Possibly what I’m calling a McMansion zone is what you are calling a suburb. It’s a new place, built on a greenfield site without any history and few services. A dormitory, where you have to drive out to get anything you really need.

          I was in a yarn shop this afternoon. They are not really shops in the same sense as others. I was doing my lost and confused bloke act and got served by three ladies at the same time.

          1. Ivy

            One time at a Yarn Harlot talk, while waiting for the talk to start, a new knitterly gentleman asked a question about socks of the group sitting around him. I think everyone in ear shot jumped in to help. There’s a lot of evangelism in the knitting community. Can I ask what you’re knitting?

  5. Ken Rolph


    I don’t knit. That’s much too girly. I make latch hook rugs in patterns inspired by Roman tile floors (mostly from Roman Britain). It suits my rigid brain. (Pictures available)

    This topic has reinforced my idea of how difficult communication is between societies. We use words like neighbourhood, suburb, city as if they meant the same thing to both of us. But I’m sure they don’t always.

    1. cricketB

      Canada: Very.
      England: Not very — damning with faint praise.

      Canada: Family vehicle, larger than a car.
      England: Something else motorized.

      Remind me to add an Aussie to my beta-reader list.

      1. Ken Rolph

        You should add a Strayan as well.