Grand Theft Playground

Grand Theft Playground

Saturday night in the suburbs —

(The Mother is in the background, making chicken nuggets and broccoli for dinner. Boys are gaming):

Boy One: Any crimes yet?

(A bus careens over a curb, briefly flies down the sidewalk, runs over an innocent bystander or two, and then slams into a pole.)

Boy Two: Not yet, but there will be. Oh yeah, there will be.

The Mother opens her mouth to say something, and then shuts it.

Flashback, earlier that day —

It is a picture perfect morning at a local park. It’s early, so it’s relatively quiet. Today the competition on the softball field will be intense, and warm-ups are as focused and serious as they would be for any pro ball team. The Mother slips away to use the restroom, which is on the other side of the park. As she leaves the bathroom, drying her hands on her jeans, she glances up and realizes what an amazing park she’s standing in.

The play structures are brightly colored, fanciful, and suggestive of an enchanted wonderland. There are sturdy sunshades strategically placed so that the sand is never hot and sunscreen, although recommended, is never necessary. It’s early enough in the day that it’s not overly crowded — just a handful of children digging, running, sliding, and playing.

The kids would love this playground, the Mother absentmindedly thinks.

This is true, in the past. But not any more. Her children have long outgrown going to the park. She cases the joint like a slippery time thief, staring at the climbing apparatus through squinted eyes and imagining her own children scurrying over the top.

Mesmerized, the Mother stands there another few minutes until out of the corner of her eye, she catches another mom anxiously watching her. Their eyes meet for a split second. The woman grabs her toddler son’s hand and pulls him to the other side of the playground and out of the Mother’s field of vision. The boy starts to cry, but his mom rummages in a backpack and pulls out snacks. He quickly quiets down.

The Mother feels a pang. She remembers what it was like when her children were small and she never had them out of eyeshot.

When simply picking the kids up and moving them to the other side of the playground could calm the smallest twinge of concern.

And when she could easily distract them with a bag of Cheerios and a full sippy cup.

Don’t talk to strangers, she could imagine herself saying to her own kids. Embarrassed by the realization that she is the one acting strange, she hurries back to the ball field.

Flashback, the night before —

The boys burst into the room, out of breath and excited. It’s only 8:00 p.m., but it’s dark, and the eight-minute walk home from the movie theater has been eventful.

Boy One: On our way home, this old guy who was smoking a cigar was trying to talk to us. I ignored him but [your son] talked to him!

Mother: What?

Boy Two: He asked me if I wanted to buy weed. I said no and walked away. No big deal.

The fear feels like an iron fist clenching the mother’s heart. She wants to scream, “How many times have I told you — DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS!” But she holds it in and tries to concentrate on the most important part — “walked away.”

Sunday morning in the suburbs

Mother (nonchalantly): So, how are you liking Grand Theft Auto?

Boy: It’s good.

Mother: You know, I was thinking that I’m a terrible mother for letting my 14-year-old son play that stupid game. But maybe you’re learning important things, like how to get inside the criminal mind.

(Boy smiles, stares down at his Cheerios.)

Mother (continues): Or maybe it’s just a good reminder that there are bad people in the world. Assholes who will drive their bus on a sidewalk and wipe out innocent bystanders. Douchebags who sell pot to kids. Every time you play that idiotic game, think of me telling you to be aware and for G-d’s sake, DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS!

Boy: Stop! You’re ruining it for me.

Mother: Good. Then my work here is done.

Boy: Ugh.

Mother: JK. My work here is NEVER done.

Boy: Please, stop! (Runs out of the room.)

Mother: Never.  I love you too much.

– END (for now)-

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  • Reply Kim Hurwitz October 4, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Trudie- Loved this. One of my favorite posts of yours. It read more like part of a novel than a blog posting. Whatever it is that made you tap into your literary goddess, keep mining the gold. The readers are with you!

    • Reply Trudi October 4, 2013 at 9:38 am

      Thanks Kim! I really appreciate the feedback – it was a little something new, and I’m so thrilled that it worked — at least for you! I’m gonna frame the words “literary goddess” – XOXO

  • Reply meredith roth October 6, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Stop it already, you’re breaking my heart!! I was so thrilled after school friday when Evan actually wanted to go to the park (new play structure to check out). then heart sunk back to it’s familiar resting place when he and friend declared it “totally lame”. All the hours bringing him to the park when he was little, and wishing he would hurry up and want to leave… seem like a distant, sweet memory. Now all I hear about is Slasher movies and video games… (sigh)

    loved how this one read… beautifully done Trud

    • Reply Trudi October 6, 2013 at 5:40 pm

      thanks Mere! of course one day we’ll be longing for our little gamers hanging at home and in eyeshot. Even if they don’t talk to us (sigh). XO

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