To The Man Who Peed On My Bush In Front Of My House This Morning
How fortuitous that my young children and I caught you as we were walking out of our home to see you so kindly watering our landscape. It’s nice to see that in a city where people say we don’t owe our neighbors any kindnesses that we caught you in this act.
Do you remember how I tried to express my gratitude to your retreating back as you hitched up your pants? “THANKS A LOT!” I said. Then you held up your hand and waved with just one finger. My little boys were quite taken with the gesture, and showed their friends at school. My children don’t share much of their daily lives with me, and I wouldn’t have known it, except for the teacher mentioning perhaps we had an unusual home life that we should discuss.
The truth is that we do have an unusual home life, so thank you for bringing it to my attention. My children are products of parents who grew up in the suburbs, who sat on street corners that no one ever drove by, on swings that rarely got used, because every family was snuggled inside their own cocoons of cable television and central air. We both hated it. How dare our parents isolate us from picking up cigarette butts off of street corners and learning to lie to the bus driver to ride the city bus for free?
We knew we could never raise our children in such a cultureless environment, and so we bought a city house. Instead of fleeing to the land of manicured lawns and excellent schools, we opted for a cramped 100-year-old craftsman on an arterial. Unlike the other school families who live in the cozier sections of the city, we live near the barking dogs and the bums on the street, because we are, as I said, “unusual.” Sometimes people also say we’re “colorful.”
Our children learned how to read cardboard signs from beggars on street corners before they learned how to read a cereal box. They learned the word “alcoholic” before the constellations. And I believe, you sir, showed them their first traditional city hello with that wave of yours.
“Mom,” my seven-year-old said to me, “why doesn’t that alcoholic have a home?” he asked after you and your boozy scent left us. He didn’t even need to know that you were, in fact, an alcoholic. He was so versed in the signs he could lead an intervention. “Because sometimes people have problems they can’t control and they can’t work and they lose their homes,” I inadequately explained, trying to shrug it off.
“Why doesn’t he live with his family?” he continued.
“Maybe he doesn’t have one anymore,” I said.
“But everyone has a mommy,” he said, his eyes wide now with concern for this stranger. “Not everyone,” I hesitated.
“Well then, maybe we could be his mommy.”
“Us?” I asked with a little more horror than a mother should show. “Well, maybe us and everyone else. What if we all were his mom a little bit at a time? And then he wouldn’t have one mom, but a lot of moms.”
“What does that mean?”
“You know,” he said. “Mom stuff. Like give him cookies and tell him he did a good job when he’s feeling frustrated. That stuff.”
“Oh,” I said, my throat clogging up. “That sounds like a good idea. But I don’t know who he is, honey.”
“That’s alright. We can do it for the next alcoholic,” he said with an easy wave of his hand. “OK,” I said.
So thank you, sir. Thank you for reminding of the real reason we live here. Thank you for reminding me that living a city life means more than living in a city. Thank you for reminding me we like being colorful. Thanks for teaching my children that single finger salute. It has come in handy with That Man Who Doesn’t Pick Up His Dog’s Poop on more than one occasion.
If it wasn’t for your neighborly kindness in caring for our bush, I would never have known you, and that would be a shame. I hope you’re at home with your mom, getting more love than you know what to do with, because that’s what you’ve given me.
The Woman In Her Yoga Pants Pretending They’re Not Her Pajamas