‘Tales, some rather scary, of Other People’s Children.’
First, let me state for the record that The Dude and I like children. After all, we actually went to a great deal of trouble to have one. It’s just that, sometimes, now and then, really not all that often but often enough, we run into some pretty frightening examples of Other People’s Children. And I bet you do too.
There were the Kids Who Ran Around The House Screaming While Smearing Brownies Into The Furniture And Rugs. The Kids Who Dropped The Cat From A Height. And my personal favorites, The Kids Who Threw Rocks — inside the house — at the dining-room table.
But hey. Let me pause in my semi-rant to share a snap of a Kid Who Can Come Back Any Time. True, this kid is still at that can’t-do-much-harm phase. For one thing, he can’t run around, much less run around smearing. And, as for screaming, heck. Even when he cries at the top of his lungs, all that comes out is a sound sort of like the world’s tiniest baby elephant.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect kids to be perfect. Kids are kids: messy and noisy, even whiny and smelly. Why, I remember the time I came home from a ten-day shoot in Rome to a warm (and ripe) welcome from my own personal Child, who had taken advantage of my absence by not bathing for the duration. (The Dude didn’t notice, bless him.)
And, as for noisy, The Child once had a tantrum that was so bad — you know the kind; where the kid makes him or herself stiff as a board and shrieks — that The Dude had to extract her from the scene (we were in a restaurant in North Beach with a friend). There he was, trying to hail a cab on the streets of San Francisco while carrying a flailing, kicking, red-faced little girl who was screaming ‘I want my mommy! I want my mommy!’ at the top of her toddler lungs. Child abduction, anyone?
In fact, my threshold of kid tolerance is actually pretty low. As with many things, I let my own mom be my guide. As you recall, there were five of us Henry Kids, and none of us was what you would call a Shrinking Violet. We were, in fact, pretty messy, noisy, whiny, and smelly. But I do recall that we could be taken pretty much anywhere. See, that was the deal. Mom (and Dad too, but it was really Mom making the rules) expected to be able to take us somewhere — and that we’d act in a manner that meant we could actually go back.
Pictured above are two shining examples of Kids Who Can Come Back. No, they are not perfect (though perfectly cute, as you can see). They run around squealing, but they do so outside. They’re kind of messy eaters, but they keep it (pretty much) to the kitchen. And, so far anyway, they don’t throw rocks. At least not in the house.
Speaking of rocks, I once announced to my mother that ‘I didn’t throw rocks at the house’. I was four. But why on earth would I bring this up if I actually hadn’t been ‘throwing rocks at the house’? Kids. Whattaya gonna do?
But about that kid who inspired the title of this piece. He was (and no doubt still is, I imagine) the son of one of my mother’s cousins. The one who used to make the incredibly bizarre jello salad concoctions. (I recall one made with green jello, cottage cheese, celery, and, I kid you not, chopped raw cabbage and onion.) Non-welcome kid. Weird jello salad. Coincidence?
This kid was, rather famously, not welcome anywhere. Once, at a family reunion, he bit me. I know, I know. Kids do that. But he was about eight at the time. And I was an infant — an infant with a big ole chomp mark on her tummy. This kid was so naughty, that when my Swedish Grampa would see their car pull in to the driveway, he would say: ‘Oh, no. It’s them. And they’ve got him.
But let’s end on an up note, shall we? This past weekend we got to spend some Quality Time with the Kid Pictured At The Top of This Post (and, um, his parents). He was a big hit, as you can see:
Amagansett, New York. June 2016