Saturday, May 28, 2011

Me and Susan Smith

          We’re headed down the block to Franklin Park in a few minutes for the Asian Festival, a weekend packed with music, dancing, and food: everything my family loves.  So perhaps I’ll have a little morsel to share about all that fun next week.  But in the mean time, here’s a story about a different Franklin Park adventure from a few weeks back.
          See, it all started with the duck pond.
          Duck ponds are very popular in these parts.  I guess because there are no real ponds or lakes or any flowing water other than silty rivers.  I didn’t actually understand the thing about no bodies of water before we moved.  I mean, we looked at Google Earth and the evidence showed there were no natural places to go swimming, but I didn’t believe people could actually live that way.  Or that the natural evolution of landscape could possibly have overlooked the need for a swimming hole.  “The satellite must not know all,” I thought, and I clicked back to Rachel Maddow.
          But it turns out, there are no lakes.  Just duck ponds.  Almost every major park has one.  And they’re not just for ducks.  The Parks and Rec. Department keeps them stocked so folks in the Buckeye Nation can enjoy catch and release fishing as well.  Franklin Park, a block from our apartment, is home to a sizable duck pond big enough to have a pretty big island in the middle accessible by foot bridges and decorated with fancy tall grasses, but certainly not big enough to be an ecologically appropriate home for the hundreds of ducks and geese that doze on it‘s banks.  But why wouldn’t they flock there.  People come all day long with full bags of bread and unopened boxes of Cheerios they just bought down at the Save-A-Lot and feed them to these poor feathered friends.  So the water, and the park, is full of poop.
          And I’m already a little obsessed about poop, so the scene at Franklin Park doesn’t help.  See Moon Boy and Ankle Biter have a host of dietary challenges--no gluten, no soy, no dairy, no egg--and I’m always looking closely at their poop to monitor our success in managing it all.  So the three of us--my two and three year old, and me--walk around Franklin Park investigating the bird scat.  Ankle Biter asking, “Poop! Pick it up?”  Moon Boy answering, “No, it’s yucky!  It will make you sick!”  Me thinking “Oh those poor birds were not meant to live on gluten.”
          So the pond is gross.  And though occasionally I meet a crazy man who tells me he fills his freezer with eighteen inch bass from its waters, most of the fisher people look at all the floaty gunk and throw their catches right back in.  And even though Ankle Biter and Moon Boy follow almost none of my directions, they seem to understand the imperative of my repeated shrieks that they never, ever, ever touch this water.
          But the water isn’t the only thing to be afraid of.  From what I’ve observed, people generally keep an arms length from the geese.  Grown men, toddlers, they approach the flock with their bits of Wonder Bread (made right here in Columbus!) arms outstretched calling “here Goosey, Goosey,” but as soon as the geese start to hustle over, the humans drop the bread and stand back.  They’re pretty aggressive.  They know what we have to offer and have no desire to stretch the feeding process out into a tantalizing Argentine Tango.  They aren’t Argentinian.  They're Canadian.  And they want their Wonder Bread now!  The whole bag thanks and then be on your way.
          I don’t know if my boys are just bold or if its because I don’t let them feed the geese since neither they, nor the fowl, can digest Wonder Bread.  But for whatever reason, my little guys are the only people I’ve seen who show no fear of the winged beasts.  None.  These things are big.  And aggressive.  And as tall as my children.  But Moon Boy and Ankle Biter look those pansies in the eyes … and the chase is on.  The two of them swarm the banks of geese, forcing them up off their snoozing bums and down the bank into the pond with a simultaneous splooshing that makes a magnificent display of feathers and waves.  And feels oh so satisfying to the usually powerless toddler.  My boys stand there at the edge of the pond surveying their work-- never touching the water--laughing and laughing and laughing.
          I don’t normally believe in letting children torture animals but as I see it, these feathered friends have lost any sense of the natural order of things.  They believe packaged edible-substances are their ordained food.  They understand humans as the necessary, if annoying, source for this food.  And they stay in the park all winter long leaving webbed foot prints in the snow.  They could use a little fear of the industrialized world; I let my boys at ‘em without restrain.
          So anyway, a few weeks ago I was trying to get the boys down for a nap via the stroller method.  I ran them all morning, fed them a good lunch, buckled them in the stoller, tucked them under a blanket, and gave them a cup of hot rice milk.  It had worked the last two days.  The chilly air kept them subdued under the fleece, and by the time we were three quarters of the way around the park, they were down.  But the third day it was warmer and there was no impetus to stay tucked in.  Especially not when we got to the bank of napping geese.
          “Get down! Get down! Chase a geese!” Ankle Biter yelled, while Moon Boy tried his hand at unbuckling.
          I tried to satisfy their urges by running at the sleeping geese with the stroller, thinking if I did it a few times they would settle back in for a restful walk.  This is just the kind of ludicrous parenting tactic I use all the time, never achieving the desired goal and thus proving my insanity.  But there I was, desperate for sleeping children, running down the Franklin Park banks, pushing their double-wide stroller at a flock of dozing Canadian Geese, who woke with a thunder of squawking and splooshed in one big mass into the disgusting water below.  Just the kind of activity that lulls small children to sleep.  Right?
          “Do it again!  Do it again!”
          Well, when I got the bottom of the bank the third time down I realized that if people raise their eyebrows when my little boys chase the geese, there might be a bigger social consequence for an adult who does the same while pushing a medium-sized wheeled vehicle.  So I decided to avoid arrest and left the stroller right there, facing down the bank at the edge of the pond.  I unbuckled the boys and let them finish off the job.  Once all the geese had been effectively woken up and splooshed, they moved on to their second favorite Franklin Park game: Hide Under The Bushes.
          It’s a lot of fun really, from the kids’ perspective.  Big full, flowering bushes that reach all the way down to the ground.  When you crawl underneath there’s room enough to burrow and gnaw on little sticks and leaves, unseen by the grown up world.  They’d been playing under there for a few minutes when the rain started.  Fishermen left their lunch-break sport and headed to the parking lot near the bushes to eat sandwiches in the shelter of their cars.  A few others drove in and parked, waiting to see if the storm would move quickly and they could make a couple of casts before heading back to work.  And soon, I was the only person standing there in the rain.
          “It’s raining,” I called into the bush.  “We’re going to have to head home in a minute.”
          “It’s not waining in heyuh!”  Moon Boy called up.  “Come in Mommy.  Come feed me some wooms.”
          It was hard to resist: feeding worms to my little birds under the shelter of a voluptuous flowering bush.  What mom could turn that invitation down?  So I looked around at my audience of lunch eaters in the parking lot, got down on my hands and knees, and crawled under the bush. 
          It was pretty dry under there and, what can I say, I’m good at the worm routine.  I pretended to peck them from the ground and mimed their squiggly bodies in my hand.  Then fed them to my giggling chicks and tickled their bellies as the imaginary worms descended into their digestive tracts.  But the longer we were under there the more I thought about all those people in the parked cars who would have seen me disappear under the bush, never to come out.  I hoped that some of them would remember my boys were under there with me.  I was not just a random adult touring the park one minute and then hiding in the bushes the next.  And then I wondered if they did remember the boys were under the bush, what would they think we were doing?  Or rather, what would they think I was doing?  It was kind of suspicious behavior, you know, ducking unseen under a bush by the duck pond.  An androgynous white person lurking on the banks scooping up little black kids as they came to feed the ducks.  I could see where if they missed our approach together in the stroller, they might get the wrong idea.  Then, as a few more cars dove in, I wasn’t sure whether coming out or staying under would be better.
          But the rain slowed to a sprinkle.  And I convinced my little squirrels (they were squirrels now) to scamper out of the bush and look for acorns to gather.
          I led the way, crawling out of the bush on all fours, and the first thing I saw of the outside world, was a security truck from the Conservatory driving up the walkway on the other side of the duck pond. 
          Odd. I’d never seen a motorized vehicle on that path before.  But there it was.
          I stood up and faced the man who emerged from the truck as he walked across the park toward me.  I panicked a bit.  Wondering how I could prove these were my kids.  How I could explain that instead of walking the block home in the rain we chose to stay and play under the bushes.
          But he smiled kindly as he approached, and then turned his body to point back across to the far end of the duck pond.  “Do you know whose stroller that is?” he asked.
          I followed his point and found, at its end, our stroller: perched on the slope of the bank at the edge of the pond looking as though it had just dumped its precious cargo into the fetid waters below.
          I laughed, a big long laugh of relief.
          “Oh, yes, yes” I managed to get out between snorts.  “That’s our stroller.”
          And as if on cue, out scampered my little chrrrrrring squirrels off to collect food for the winter.
          The security guy was immediately relieved as well.  He had gotten a call about the stroller.  Maybe a couple of calls.  People worried about the fate of its former passengers.  No sign who it might have belonged to.
          Mystery solved, he was quickly on his way.  And I on mine, running after my boys and thinking: Sheesh! If I was going to drown those fuzzy tailed rodents I wouldn’t do it in a duck pond!  It’s just so nasty!


  1. wow this thing is like an Easter egg hunt of typos. Free subscription to my blog for the sleuth who find the most!

  2. I was laughing to hard to see the typos!!!!

  3. I am bothering my girlfriend this Sunday morning with all my quiet giggling. Especially like the Argentinian Tango vs the Canadian Tango with the goose.

    I spent the summer exploring Ohio's lakes and swimming beaches. And then someone told me about the algae problem. Lucky for them, none of my beaches have appeared on the Do Not Go Near list, although they kept a close eye on Deer Creek last summer. Anyways. We do have a few natural places to swim. Which has been great for my son who is seven and doesn't know how to swim. This summer I figured out it's mostly because the chlorine stings his eyes and he can't stand all the splashing and squealing of a public pool. In the lake he can get away from everyone and practice on his own.

    my family is also jewish. two (divorced) mommies. I am transplanted from Pittburgh; I love it here.
    ---Janine Dunmyre