"So you expect me to make my son who just learned to ride a bike ride in the street because you think it's okay to park this thing in the middle of the sidewalk? You expect my friend who is pushing her sleeping infant in a stroller to walk in the street because you can't be bothered to use a wheelbarrow and a shovel to do your work?"
None of the workers looked up from their work as I yelled their direction. The home-owner was standing in the driveway talking to someone, maybe the idiot contractor who lets his workers park their trailers in the sidewalk, completely blocking the way for pedestrians and small (tiny!) children on bicycles. Because I thought maybe they hadn't heard me, I yelled it louder as I walked slowly past.
"It seems you'd rather a tiny child ride his bike in the street than carry your work stuff 12 feet!"
After guarding my tiny bike rider as he went around the construction trailer blocking our way and into the street, we got to the end of the block and crossed. My friend I was walking with said, "Let's stop just a second." I asked Abe to slow down and stop. With deeply furrowed eyebrows, I turned and looked at her after making sure Abe had stopped fully and not careening gleefully into traffic.
She said, "I need to give you a hug." She stepped forward and hugged me. I sighed. I said, "Should I go back and tell the homeowner to her face?...I'm going back..." I took one step and then turned back around, saying, "Nah, it would only make me more mad."
As we continued down the street, I realized that I have a considerable amount of pent-up anger. Lately, it has felt like the workings of this world are orchestrated only to put my children in imminent danger, from bureaucrats who won't give one child a visa to gardeners who park their shit in the middle of the sidewalk, forcing the little one to ride his bike in the street. You know, the place where cars go speeding by. That street. The one where people get run over.
I've been living with a knot in my belly, burdened by sad news at every turn, not just about our lack of embassy clearance but about drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, about the light of hope suddenly going dark for a close friend, about reduced or completely cut funding for the seniors at my job, about one of my seniors who has had fifteen children in his lifetime but lost eight, and about the creeping darkness that human beings are capable of.
So I go for a long walk on a chilly summer day with a friend and end up yelling at the one thing I have some control over: people who force my son to ride his bike in the street. Later, as we're almost to our house, I discover ahead of us a gardening truck blocking the sidewalk. I wonder if my friend was cringing as she saw the look on my face. This time, the worker (probably the home-owner) was right close to the truck so I was able to look him in the eye and tell him how unacceptable this is, that maybe he's not aware that his laziness is forcing small children into harm's way. He apologizes. Abe, squeezing by the truck, gets scratched by stray limbs and poky plants. He complains to me. I yell, "Well, that's because sometimes people don't realize that sidewalks are for walking, not parking!" Or something like that. I don't remember. I think I needed another hug.
My children in harm's way. One so far away that I can't even wrap my mind around what to do for her.
One of her best friends, the boy she traveled with from Gondar to Addis, is going home to Washington next week. His mom and I have become friends and talk or text every other day or so. They will only be a few hours away from each other. We had hopes of the two of them actually flying from Addis to the Pacific Northwest together too. But it's not happening. I suddenly got overwhelmed with sadness this afternoon thinking about how B will feel when her friend leaves. I stood at my kitchen sink scrubbing the dinner dishes while country music blared, crying (I listen to country music only during two instances: when I'm sad and when I'm driving in Los Angeles-- I have no idea the reason for this compulsion).
Then the thought occurred to me that maybe seeing her friend leave will give her hope that we will eventually be coming for her too.
I don't know how to end this post. I've lost the will/inspiration to write anything cohesive. From now on, I know that I can quote Municipal Code, title 16 Parking Violations to offenders before calling the parking police if they don't bust their ass to move their vehicles out of my child's way.
And if you want to do something to help the suffering in East Africa, go here and donate something so some children can have access to Plumpy-nut. I met a charming and precocious little boy in New York earlier this month whose life was saved thanks to this wonder-food.