When I was 6, I ran the alleys behind my house like a race-constantly stretching the boundaries of where I wanted to go, and where my mother didn’t want me to be. But it was a small town, and a different place 25 years ago, or so they tell me, and I hung out behind the hardware store, collecting stray nails, or under the fire escape for the apartments over the Seaway Restaurant, the Chinese place we never ate since my mother was horribly allergic to MSG and would PUFF up like magic if it crossed her lips.
I had kingdoms in the bushes, worlds in the skies. Dogs to pet, mud puddles to ruin my socks in. Adults were these giants in my eyes, perfect, omnipotent, occasionally possessing of cookies. Adults were the people we would be, the people with the keys and the ability to do anything they wanted. They could eat all the cocoa puffs if they liked.
They could also break our hearts and destroy us if they wanted, siphoning off our innocence until nothing was left but a paranoid shell.
Lucky me, I found one of those.
Our backyard is an incredible lush place, the type of place I would have adored as a child-full of corners and mysterious rotting things, color and life. One could imagine the wild things living here, wrapped in a warm blanket of green life and yellow magic. Despite the relative po’folk nature of our house, it’s the surroundings that bring me peace, especially in the summer when you can feel the buzzing of life crawling, creeping, when you eat a wild, sun warmed strawberry or raspberry. When you watch a beaver and it’s young teaching it how to live or a small snake awakens to your voice.
It’s a marvelous place, and I love it dearly.
We discovered last week that an old man has taken up residence in these woods, just to the right of us, a little down the trail. It surprised me, and at first I figured it was just a couple of older kids making a clubhouse. But it wasn’t.
My first reaction to this wasn’t friendly. It was paranoid and angry-paranoid at who or what he could be, and angry that now, I don’t dare let my children out as far, since he is the first person they run to.
I rarely trust people in my life. Trusting strangers is nearly impossible. We called the police.
A few days later, he’s still there, and asking me if he can use the old wood from the pool teardown we’ve never gotten rid off. I tell him yes, provided he steers clear of the kids. I ask him if he owns that property. He claims he does. I walk away, my attitude clearly communicating I want nothing to do with him.
Something inside me dies a little more, more than what was killed in an old man’s bedroom 25 odd years ago. The want to trust-the desire to trust-it’s not there. I see my daughters and I see this man and a roaring starts in my ears and it’s all I can do to not secretly run into his hidey hole and burn everything to the ground.
I know that if I had no children, I’d be glad to chat, to learn from him. I cannot take that chance with my daughters, however slight the possibility for harm is. I cannot harm their magic or beauty. I cannot. I will not.
Has anything or anyone tested your limits like this? I’m at a loss-mama bear has risen, but she knows not how to attack..