Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The people in the neighborhood

We're headed to Northern California Thursday and in overdue need of a break. This morning there were police cars nearby and a Chanel 7 news helicopter overhead, which tend to be early-warning signs of chaos. Gang graffiti is up and funding for summer youth jobs way down. The news has a daily story on the number of public-school kids lost to violence in Chicago this year. Tis the season to prepare for the worst.

But one thing I'll miss this week is another of our harbingers of summer. Our neighbor Junior, part of a household of at least two branches of an extended family, is joined every weekend by his cousins Alex and Julie. They seem to like our front porch, and also our dog. They like our sidewalk for biking and our brick path for wandering through. And for some reason they also like calling John "Chris," which he's tried to correct a few times but eventually just learned to accommodate.

The long and short of it is, we like these kids. An awful lot. Junior's a goofball who lives for other kids' company and approval. Alex is the show-off: a sweet, smart know-it-all who looks you in the eye when he's talking to you. And Julie is plainly inquisitive: every sentence lifts up at the end like she's asking a question, even when she's not (though most of the time, she is). Here's an excerpt of a recent conversation with Junior that says it all.

Junior (looking at the mosaic tiles we just laid in the front corner of the yard): 'Umm, what are those things made out of?'

Me: 'I'm not sure. I think it's cement and a bunch of broken glass. Maybe even some broken mirrors.'

Junior: 'Oh' (looking around, like he doesn't know what to make of any of that). 'All my teeth are falling out!'

So listen, tooth fairy (if that is your real name): Keep these kids safe while we're gone, ok? And put a quarter under their pillows for no reason at all.

1 comment:

Leslie said...

Those cheeks! Squeezable. What cute friends to have hanging around your house.