Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Summer, 1976, Part 1.

I peeked through the curtains at Amy sitting on the steps of our front porch. The scowl had left her face for the most part, but her eyebrows were still furrowed. Give her a couple more minutes, I thought, and she'll be bored. And then I can go out at sit with her, and then we'll be friends again. They we can play until her mother comes to pick her up.

Our fights didn't always have time constraints. She used to live right next door to us, and spent most of her time running in and out of our house, eating sandwiches at our kitchen table, and sitting in our oversized sink in the laundry room, having the mud hosed off her by my mother. In those days, Amy rarely went home in the same clothes she came over with. But now things were different. Amy's parents had gotten a divorce, and Amy had moved away. She was living in a large, 3 story condo downtown with her mother and her stepfather, Lolly. Instead of wandering home whenever she felt like it, we now knew exactly how long we had to kiss and make up before Amy's mother would pull into the driveway. Our conflicts had a timetable now, and it was a new kind of pressure we weren't yet accustomed to.

I knew we had plenty of time. Her mother wasn't going to be there for another 4 1/2 hours. Amy couldn't possibly sit there that long, and I couldn't possibly sit in the window watching her sit there for that long. This was getting boring. I had no choice but to go outside and sit down next to her on the cool, mossy brick stairs. That was step one towards reconciliation. Step two was to be ignored for a few minutes. Step three was for me to suggest playing some sort of game, which would be rejected, as would Steps four and five, which were both variations on Step three. Step six was for me to beg, and Step seven was for her to relent. Step eight was to begin playing and Step nine was to forget why we had been fighting in the first place. Step nine would last for several hours until Step ten, which was when Amy's mother would pull into the driveway and Amy would begin to cry, not wanting to go home.

We had barely gotten past Step Three when a little girl walked out of the house that used to be Amy's and shyly approach us. Her name, she said, was Lisa, and her family was just moving in, and she would like to play with us, if that was all right.

Amy said nothing, because playing we still had at least six steps to go before the playing could begin, but I must have seen an opportunity to cut to the chase, even if it was with someone else, and the next thing I remember was Lisa and I wrestling on the grass and giggling manically, while Amy sulked on the porch, alone and forgotten, until my mother came out to check on us, surveyed the scene, and insisted that we not leave Amy out.

I rolled my eyes, because Amy had been acting like a pill long before Lisa arrived on the scene, but whatever. Amy could play with us, if she wanted to, I offered, and Amy, although this was in a clear violation of the rules, had no choice but to grudgingly join us.

As a parent, I hate groups of three, and I know a lot of other parents do, too, because someone always gets singled out.* And as it came to pass, that's what Lisa and I did to Amy. I wasn't cruel to Amy; I could never be cruel to a girl who was basically raised as a family member for most of my life, but I definitely made it clear that Lisa was the more entertaining guest by far.

Later that afternoon, Amy's mother pulled up in her wood paneled green station wagon, and Amy, with no tears shed this time, went home. Lisa and I continued to play until dusk.

*One of my exasperated coworkers was telling me about her first grader nobly sticking up for a little girl who was being picked on because she was Mexican, telling the little girl who was doing the bullying that it wasn't fair to mistreat someone because of their race, and because she was black she ought to know that. The next day the bully decided to befriend the Mexican girl and both the bully and the Mexican girl excluded my friend's daughter. This is the thanks one gets for being the Martin Luther King of the playground.