Monday, December 10, 2007

In the Park

Eli 6.4 went to three birthday parties this weekend. That's "three" as in "I want to stab myself."

In the third party, on Sunday, he was hanging out with his friends from first grade, and I witnessed one of the strangest elements of childhoold.

Here's how it works. When your boy is by himself, he will be gentle and pleasant, totally charming, and utterly non-agressive.

In other words, he's a hippie.

Most little boys, in isolation, are like this.

Put four or more boys together, though, and they'll be looking for lizards and fans as they read William Golding novels. They stop acting like themselves and start acting exactly like each other, and the worst thing anyone does will immediately be adopted by the others.

This party was in a park, and all the boys decided that what they really wanted to do was start a fire. So they started gathering sticks and placed them on a large rock.

Their short-term objective, in other words, was to burn down the park.

Maybe they weren't actually trying to burn it down. But watching the hive mind at work, I wouldn't have been surprised.

I was hanging out on the swings at one point, and Eli walked over and sat in the swing next to me. I'd been watching him pretty closely, so I knew what was going on, but I always like to hear his version. "So, are you having a good time?" I asked.

"Pretty much," he said. "Except for Thomas."

"Why Thomas?"

"Dad, THOMAS tried to KICK ME in the WIENER."

"He did?" I asked. I've never heard him say "wiener" before. Another vocabulary triumph of the playground.

"THEN, he tried to kick JAMES in the WIENER," he said.

"Did you tell him to stop?" I asked.

"YES," he said. "Then he tried to kick me in the WIENER AGAIN. And WIENER is a BAD WORD, so not only is he trying to kick me, he's making me use a bad word. But if someone is trying to KICK YOU in the WIENER, how are you supposed to explain it WITHOUT saying WIENER?"

"Try groin," I said. "That includes the wiener and surrounding areas."

Then, in an interesting development, Thomas's mom walked up while Eli and James and Thomas were all standing together, and she proceeded to extract a confession from Thomas about all "incidents wiener." Even at the point where it was impossible to tell who was lying (which happens in every single incident involving little kids), she pushed through, and finally got her son to tell the truth. It was gritty but fair, and I felt like I'd been watching the Nickelodeon version of The Shield.

Something happened at the park that has never happened to me before. The temperature was in the 70s, and it was muggy. So I was standing there talking to another parent, and as I turned my face I felt a huge gust of cool, fresh air.

It was a cold front.

I can't remember ever being outside at the very instant a cold front blew through. It was just one second, and then it was at least five degrees cooler, maybe ten.

All that warm, muggy air was gone, and I had an idea to chase after it, trying to run on the border between hot and cold for as long as I could.

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