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.