November 20, 2009

At the kitchen table

Most days, I come home to find Little Biker Boy and Ponytail, the two little neighbor kids, playing with the toys on my front porch. On sunny days during September and October, I’d take a break to sit outside with them, asking about their day, inspecting bruises, and admiring lego block creations. Now that the days are getting colder and the dark comes early, I come home to find them riding up and down the driveway on their bikes, their cheeks red with the cold. When they see me, they run to give me hugs and come inside to color pictures at the kitchen table.

When I bought the coloring books, sketch pads, and crayons, I wondered if the two kids could sit still long enough to color. They’re very active kids, very rough and tumble. They’ve always been mystified by the way members of my household spend their time writing, reading, sketching, working on laptop computers, playing quiet games like chess, or doing schoolwork. They’re puzzled by the lack of television and the fact that we call spending time on the computer “work.”

I’d been a little worried about how the transition to playing indoors would work out, but it turns out the kids love sitting at the kitchen table, drinking milk and eating cookies while they color and talk. “I’m going to use pink today,” Ponytail will say importantly as she settles down at the table. “This one is for you,” Little Biker Boy will say as he begins drawing. He’ll glance over at Boy in Black, sitting on the couch doing research on his computer, and smile. I think the quiet work makes the two kids feel like they fit into the household.

Today, we were talking about the little orange kitten that we found this summer. Film Guy’s brother adopted her in July, and I’d seen a picture of her recently. “She’s gotten bigger,” I told the kids, “And she’s happy.”

“I miss her,” Little Biker Boy said. Ponytail said nothing. She simply put her head down on the table and began crying. That happens sometimes with her: a conversation can trigger overwhelming sadness. She’s a child with deep pockets of sadness. I moved to the red chair by the fireplace so she could sit in my lap and cry as long as she needed to. Little Biker Boy went on coloring. Ponytail sobbed for several minutes, cuddling up to me. Then she stood up, wiped the tears from her face, and went back to her spot at the table.

20 comments:

heidi said...

Its great that she feels safe at yourhouse.

readersguide said...

Poor little kid.

Songbird said...

Back to her work. Oh, jo(e).

Tall Kate said...

(j)oe, that is some important work *you* are doing.

AF said...

Yep. Sometimes you just need to sit on somebody's lap and cry.

Amber said...

I didn't know people like you existed, jo(e). You give me such hope. I admire you much.

deb said...

Oh, Jo(e), they are so blessed to have you and your family.

Wow.

Lorianne said...

What Songbird said. Crying is quiet work, too.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

That is VERY important work you are doing! A BIG heart.

Kyla said...

It is very sad that they've had to deal with so much. My niece and nephew have been dealt a similar hand because of choices my sister has made, the meltdowns can happen over the smallest, oddest thing.

It is a good thing you are doing by simply accepting them into your home and creating a safe space.

patti said...

I wish some of my 5th graders had such a safe haven. The best I can do is try to make school a safe haven for them.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Oh, sigh. Inspecting bruises indeed.

There are little laptop-like things for kids that age. We have a very old VTech one (a hand-me-down from neighbors); I checked their web site and this is the most similar to what my kids play with. If you think your neighbor kiddos would like that, let me know.

Magpie said...

You are divine.

Silver Creek Mom said...

She is healing just by beaing able to feel comfortable enough to cry with you.

We all need to be healed from something.

jo(e) said...

Jennifer: Oh, that's a good idea. I'm going to email you for more details.

Lilian said...

Oh dear, thanks for sharing. Those kids break our hearts too... I hope and pray that they may continue living close to you and "under your wings" so to speak for as long as possible!

BrightenedBoy said...

What you are doing for those children is so wonderful and incredible. Reading about it makes me believe that even in the most horrible of situations blessings can be conferred upon us, and that true kindness exists even if in remote corners.

Thank you for being there for them.

Marcie said...

You sound like such a kind soul. Those kids will never forget that you were there for them.

liz said...

What they all said. I'm so glad you are there for them.

Jenevieve said...

Matt and I have been talking a lot lately about when and how we will grow our wee family.

I hope it looks a little like yours!