Suffer the little children: A Story of Neighborly Community

Last night, as our unseasonably warm weather hovered above eighty degrees, I found myself standing barefoot in our driveway, hunched over corrugated plastic signs, spraypainting them orange.

J has been organized a 5k for an upcoming anti-human trafficking conference at the college, and part of that organization means making the signs to point the runners in the correct direction at every intersection. While he was in the basement cutting out a stencil for the words and arrows that would appear in black on each sign, I was dousing their backgrounds with orange–both the color of our local college and the color of freedom.

This simple act of spraypainting a dozen signs was enough to prompt the curiosity of a handful of neighborhood children.

Now, let me remind you that I was hot and gross-feeling to begin with, and on top of my swollen ankles and feet, and enormous abdomen, I was not the cheeriest of neighbors. But one little boy rode his bicycle down our driveway and jumped off of it, announcing, “You have a rabbit in your yard!”

I didn’t know this little boy, and his accent was so thick I had a slight difficulty understanding him. Luckily, I had seen an enormous rabbit in our yard that morning, so I was able to translate. “Yes, there are a few rabbits around here.” I kept painting.

And he kept standing there, watching my handiwork. Our neighbor’s son approached. They both stood there. Finally, I said, “You can go into our yard and look for it, if you want to.”

I thought this was the right thing to say to get rid of them. They bounded over to the yard. Whew.

If only.

Within the minute, our neighbor’s oldest daughter and a girl I didn’t know showed up. They asked what I was doing. I told them. More questions. More answers.

Then the boys came running back. “You have a garden snake over there!”

Ah, yes. I should have remembered the snake situation before sending the neighbor kids into the yard. J had warned me about seeing a snake or two recently. (I am going to be such a great mom.)

This is how the conversation progressed from there:

Me: “Yes, there are some snakes over there. But they’re more scared of you than you are of them.”

“If I had my bee bee gun, I could shoot it…”

Me: “Yes, you could. Potentially.”

“Is it a garter snake?”

Me: “Yes.”

“My dad says garter snakes bite.”

Me: “They can bite, but they’re not poisonous. It would just be a little pinch. Besides, snakes typically slither away from people. They don’t like us.”

“What kind of a race is this?”

“…or spray paint it orange…”

Me: “It’s a 5k.”

“I don’t like snakes, but I like worms.”

“My sister runs races.”

Me: “Worms are good for the soil.”

“…or chop off its head with a hatchet.”

Me: “Hey now, snakes are part of nature. They eat things that need to be eaten. Like mice.”

“I don’t like mice!”

“I like mice, but I don’t like rats!”

“Me either!”

Long pause.

“Are you going to have a baby?”

I look down at my stomach. “I certainly hope so.”

17 comments on “Suffer the little children: A Story of Neighborly Community

  1. stephen says:

    You are such a good sport… I would have loved to watch that conversation. The dialogue was so good, it almost sounded scripted.

    • elizabeth says:

      There are probably things I’m forgetting, too. They asked a lot of the same questions over and over again, with different words, and they were getting called in by parents at various times, but were all rather reluctant to leave the sign-spraying. J came out about the time that the violence to the snake was really being suggested, and he found my responses amusing, too. One little girl stayed extra long, hunching right down beside him while he was painting the stencils, telling us about her mom and sister running races but her dad not running them because of a broken back… I’m telling you, you can’t make this stuff up!

  2. Elaine says:

    Ok – that made me laugh out loud! I have first-hand knowledge of those little garter snakes, by the way, but I made J take it outside from the basement! No pets!!

    • elizabeth says:

      Yeah, I considered telling the kids that there had been one in the basement, but I decided that might get them a little too worked up. 🙂 I mean, it got me a little worked up!

      Glad it made you chuckle.

  3. Kelsie says:

    That last response made me laugh. I hope you have a baby, too!

    • elizabeth says:

      Haha. Thanks. After being gone all last week on spring break, our housemate walked into the kitchen yesterday, looked at me, and said, “Wow, I think your stomach has grown!” Yes, yes it has. I feel that way every time I look in the mirror these days. 🙂

  4. Marjorie Wallace says:

    This made me chuckle also. Although I would not have gone in your backyard because I am “deathly” scared of snakes no matter whether they are harmful to me or not. Having taught children, I could visuallize your conversation with the children and their responses. They are a joy at the right times!!!!!!

    • elizabeth says:

      My mom doesn’t like snakes either. Not one bit! I have vague memories of her chasing them down with shovels when she’s been out gardening alone, which I suppose is better than leaving them alive and always wondering when they’ll appear again!

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. Jane says:

    The night before I had my son one of my private piano students, said: “Guess we won’t have lessons for awhile because my Dad said you were going to have a baby!” Ah the observation skills of the eight year old male! 🙂

    • elizabeth says:

      Haha, yes. Out of the mouths of babes, right?

      Good to see you around these parts, by the way. Hope all is well with you!

      The influx in traffic is nearly always a sign that my brother is linking to the blog on Facebook… 🙂 What a good brother he is.

  6. Liz's Dad says:

    You WILL make a GREAT mom because you have a sense of humor and don’t take things too seriously.

    But that may change when it is your little one and not the neighbors’!

    And this grandpa can’t wait!

    • elizabeth says:

      Thanks, Dad! I think you’re right about it changing when it’s my own kiddo… though I imagine our household will always be full of laughter. I live with a pretty funny guy!

      • ryan says:

        children find their uncles funnier (or scarier as the case may be) than their own parents…just keep that in mind. its kind of like the spouse rule that is similarly worded.

      • elizabeth says:

        Ryan, I suppose it has to do with getting too used to each other! Or immune to each other. Or something…

  7. Tina says:

    Tina Stansfield
    Kids are funny and sometimes they can surprise you with some great insight. It’s great when us big people take time to listen. We just might learn something from their wisdom.

    • elizabeth says:

      Sometimes it’s surprising just how wise they are, I agree!

      Thanks for stopping by, Tina. Hope you and your family are well!

  8. Elizabeth (Emily's sister) says:

    I hope this blog can help pass the word… the only thing anyone should ever to say to a pregnant woman about her appearance is how beautiful she looks! Sincerely Elizabeth – you looked positively radiant at the retreat.

    Hang in there. I think this time of pregnancy is part of a master plan to help reduce fear and make you just want to get on with labor/delivery! 🙂

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