It was a beautiful, warm spring day yesterday, and we were all outside doing yard work. As usual, the kids start off bouncing off the walls, excited to help. “Yay Mommy! We want to pull weeds too! Will you give us money? We will fill our bags up with weeds! Can we have gloves too? Can we have shovels? His shovel is bigger than mine! He hit me! He called me an idiot! That’s not fair!” and on and on in the usual song and dance known as Getting Ready for Anything. I get them little shovels and gloves and bags to throw all of their weeds in, and within 4 minutes, the bags are blowing away into the neighbors’ yards, empty, as they take off to play with their friends. Fucking assholes. I’m just kidding, I would never say that about my own, sweet, innocent little children.
While I pulled weeds and laid out 25 bags of mulch until my back bled, they played on the trampoline and rode bikes and had squirt gun battles with the neighborhood kids. Our neighborhood is really great, it’s how I grew up, with kids all over the place, bouncing around house to house, and all of the parents are cool with it. I walked over to say hi to our neighbors who were inadvertently watching my kids all day.
I noticed my oldest and his friend were crouched down, super focused on whatever they had trapped underneath the upside clothes hamper. Intrigued, I walked over to check it out, and crouched down with them to see what they had caught. Was it a bug, or a butterfly? Perhaps a turtle or a frog?
Nope. It was a rock, with three gummy worms on it.
They were staring at them as if they were going to magically come to life upon the hot rock. I thought to myself, “fucking dumb-asses” no, not really, because you would never even think that about your own sweet, innocent little children.
That was when I was reminded of ElJay.
When I was about eight, almost the age that my son is now, I was inseparable with two other girls in the neighborhood, Jackie and Heather. We did everything together, rode our bikes, played Simon, double dutch, Chinese jumprope, jacobs ladder, hopscotch, roundoffs and back handsprings, penny drops from our swing sets and tree branches, and the old shoelace test to see who was getting boobies first. We never ran out of things to do, ever.
One day, we were playing in Jackie’s yard, and we saw a round piece of cardboard blowing across the grass, and we ran over to see what it was, because when you’re an eight year old girl, everything must be investigated. It was a clothing tag, about 3″ in diameter, and on it, it read ElJay.
It had a tear in it, and we all ran inside to tape it back together, so carefully you would have thought we were performing a life or death surgery. We were fascinated by it, and decided that it was actually alive, and that we would all take turns taking care of her. ElJay, the clothing tag.
We ran up to Jackie’s bedroom and made a bed for her out of an old shoebox and tissue paper, and laid her down in it so that she would have time to heal from her surgery. We took turns holding her and rock-scissor-papered to see who would get to keep her overnight. That’s right, ElJay, the cardboard clothing tag. We huddled around it as if it were a newborn baby. We carried her with caution and care and bickered over who got to hold her longer. We took her on the school bus, laid her inside of our desks in class. After school we would all meet and play games with her, ElJay, the cardboard clothing tag.
I think this went on for a week or so until we all just lost interest. We had a kind of half-assed ceremonial “releasing” of her, where we said something totally gay and threw her off into the wind, like dumb-ass fucking assholes.