My home office is right by the front door, and it’s often where I’m sitting when the little neighbor kids come over. I keep a Raggedy Ann doll on my bookshelf, and I’ve got coloring books and crayons, but what fascinates the neighbor kids most are the “grown-up” office supplies. They’ve gone through reams of post-it notes, boxes of staples, and several yellow pads of legal paper.
Today, they seized two small pads of paper that I’ve been using for to-do lists. They took them into the hall and then came right back. “Can we have some pens?” asked Ponytail.
“Sure,” I said. “What are you going to draw?”
Ponytail stood up straight, and held her pad importantly, pen poised to write. Biker Boy struck the same pose.
“We’re playing Caseworker,” Biker Boy said.
Ponytail knocked on my office door, even though it was already open. “Pretend you’re the Mom.”
“Okay,” I said. “Show me your ID.”
Ponytail looked surprised, but Biker Boy didn’t hesitate. He reached into his back pocket and pretended to pull out an ID. “I’m from Child Protective. I’m gonna ask you some questions.”
Ponytail bounced up and down, a big smile on her face. “I have ID too!”
They began barraging me with questions. “How old are your children? Do you have any weapons? Do you smoke? Do you smoke anything besides cigarettes?”
I gave answers, and they scribbled importantly on their pads. Then Biker Boy put the pad under his arm and began searching my office — opening drawers, looking under books, pulling back the curtains. Ponytail joined in.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Looking for drugs,” Ponytail said. “I found some cocaine.”
“Me too,” said Biker Boy, holding up an eraser. “Here’s some cocaine.”
“We’re going to take your kids,” said Ponytail. She put her face close to mine. “We’re going to put your kids in foster care.” She was smiling, which made the words even more painful. She’s only six.
“We might have to put you in jail,” said Biker Boy.
“Who wants cocoa?” I asked. I couldn’t stand the game any longer. The kids dropped their pads of paper and followed me out to the kitchen, where the tea kettle was already on the stove. I sliced some banana bread, and we played the game where they’re kids from a stable home, eating a snack after school.