Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hot Days and The Politics of Childhood Friendship

It really is a hot one out there today. This morning, Mr. Weatherman said it was going to be about 95 degrees by 5 p.m. tonight but it would feel more like 100 degrees. He was right. It is a sauna out there at the moment. I’m a little amazed that he was right but, as with everything, if you try hard enough at something, eventually you are right about it once in a while.

I find super hot days like this change the vibe of a neighbourhood. Normally, when the weather is cool and manageable, my little ‘hood is full of activity. There are a lot of kids who walk home from playing baseball or basketball at the nearby community centre. There are parents fetching and driving their kids to sports, ballet and whatever activities the kids do. There is a buzz of mowers. There are people walking dogs, stopping to chat, jogging…you get the picture.

However, on hot days like this the neighborhood pretty much just stops. The lawns look dry and crispy and even those that desperately need to be mowed are ignored. There are fewer people thronging around and far more sitting on their stoops in lawn chairs, lazily watching the world. It’s like for a brief period, everything slows down.

I don’t mind it at all. I find it fascinating. People get up much earlier when they know it’s going to be super hot. When I drive to work at 7:50 a.m., there are a lot more dog-walkers and joggers than normal because they know later on it will be too hot to walk/jog.

When the heat hits later in the day, it’s hard to explain exactly how the vibe feels. The closest I can come is a scene in a movie where there has been a mass disaster that’s killed most of human life and only a rag-tag bag of survivors scuttle and hide in the buildings because, at night, the zombies come. While there are no zombies in my neighbourhood (that I know of, anyway), the deserted daytime feeling seems to be there. There is little life force outside- it’s too busy hiding inside in the sanctity of the air conditioning.

The pups and I tried to break this deserted feel last night and we went for a walk anyway since it was only 93 outside. It was still hot enough that Rory plonked herself down on the ground and decided she was too hot and tired to continue. This was about five minutes after we left the house. Normally, it takes at least ten minutes of walking.

We did run into a few brave souls who were trying to conquer the heat and work outside anyway. We met a new lady who lives in the pups favourite house- it’s got a lot of trees with squirrels and bunnies have often been sighted in the yard. She used to have dachshund so we had quite a chat. She used to have males and she told me a couple of horror stories about their viciousness that made me shudder a little because of what happened with Sausage. I do know that male dachshunds are known to be one of the more vicious breeds which is why I have females.

She was a nice lady though and we had a chat. She also told me it was quite ok if my dogs wanted to poop in her yard. I didn’t even have to clean it up. That was nice of her but I’m a firm believer in the scooping of the poop- leave no evidence behind.
We also met a rather nice, sad little boy named Raymond. He was riding his bike with a helmet on. Raymond is one of those kids you just know doesn’t have it easy. He’s a little heavyset for his age, had a slight lisp and has a wide eyed sweetness about him. Raymond asked me if I’d seen two boys on bikes. Given that Son of Dog Whisperer and his little friend had almost mowed us down on the other side of the block, I said I had seen them but I wasn’t sure if they were the same boys he was looking for.

When he told me their names, he confirmed that he was, in fact, looking for Son of Dog Whisperer and his friend. Apparently, Raymond was supposed to ride bikes with them but as soon as he’d gone to get his bike, they’d ridden off and ditched him. Just looking at him, I could see how hurt he was by this. He kept asking me where I’d seen them and I told him. They had been riding awfully fast so it was clear that for whatever reason, they didn’t want to play with Raymond.

Naturally, I felt horrible for the poor little boy. I think he is about eight or nine. He told me that he didn’t have many friends and how he thought he’d found some in Son of Dog Whisperer and his buddy. His lip quivered and my heart just went out to the poor boy. It’s been a few years since I was a kid but I remember times where I got ditched by friends or they basically ganged up and decided I wasn’t cool enough to hang out with. It’s a heavy feeling that just hangs over you and makes you feel unwanted.

There wasn’t much I could do for poor Raymond. He asked if I knew Son of Dog Whisperer and I told Raymond that he was my next door neighbour. I wasn’t sure of the politics of the friendship between Son of Dog Whisperer, his buddy and Raymond but I did ask Raymond if he wanted to ride his bike while I walked back home with the pups so I could show him where Son of Dog Whisperer lived. Raymond, lip quivering a little, was too proud to do that and I was pleased for him. Instead, he asked me that if I saw the other boys, I could please ask them to go back to Raymond’s house.

I didn’t see Son of Dog Whisperer and his friend so I couldn’t pass along the message when I took my poor, lazy, panting pups home. My guess is that if I had, the two boys would have cackled and said, “No Way.” Kids can be very cruel when they have a peer to back them up and it was quite obvious they were happy with just their own company.

My heart goes out to young Raymond. He’s the type of boy you know has a hard time making friends because he has a wee aura of neediness to him. Yet I bet he’d be a loyal friend to anyone who would let him. He also has an aura of sweetness and gentleness to him that the other two boys lack. It may sound strange and blame it on my need, as a writer, to watch and observe people. I’ve watched Dog Whisperer and his buddy and they’re a little wild- they have parents but their parents are too busy to pay much attention to what they do. This is why they can go bike riding, shoeless, shirtless around the neighbourhoods, occasionally veering into the road and always riding with determination. Raymond, on the other hand, seems well cared for- he might try to ride his bike ruthlessly without worrying about cars and such in order to keep up with his friends but, really, he’s very meticulously about crossing the street and being safe. That’s how he was last night when he talked to me. He was on the other side of the street and he looked both ways before crossing over.

I hope that Raymond finds some friends who appreciate him and won’t ditch him when they promise to play. It was hard to watch him walk off after giving me the message to deliver. His shoulders slumped and he walked with a very dejected air.

I know he’s just a strange neighbour kid but something about Raymond got to me. Maybe it was because he took me back briefly to some painful friend politics of my own childhood. Maybe it’s because no one wants to see a lonely kid. But, mostly, I think it’s because he seemed like such a sweet little boy and seeing those sad, hurt eyes made me just wish I could make Son of Dog Whisperer and his buddy change their minds and include Raymond.

But the world doesn’t work like that and I only have one side of the story. Besides, it does not do to meddle in the friendship politics of eight-year-old boys.

It still doesn’t stop me from hoping for good things for little Raymond anyway. Hopefully, the rest of the long, hot summer days will be a little kinder to him and he’ll find someone else to play with.

Although, hopefully, not all the days will be this hot. Especially as it’s not even really summer yet.

Happy Thursday!

1 comment:

Sarah said...

That makes me sad for little Raymond! I wish you knew more kids in the neighborhood so you could try to introduce him to other potential friend. He sounds like a sweetie.