Monday, October 31, 2005

Finders Keepers - a child's story

My parents are divorced. They got divorced when I was only two and my brother was three. I don’t really remember them being together. Now we live with mom and visit dad. On one of my dad’s weekend visit, I went with my dad and my brother to the video store to get a movie. While my dad looked around, my brother and I went to the kids’ area and played. I found a stuffed dog on one of the chairs. There were no other stuffed animals there. Just chairs, a Lego table and Legos. I picked it up. It was cute. It was soft. I carried it around for a while.
My dad called us over because it was time to go. He saw the stuffed dog. “Where did you get that?” He asked. I told him that I had found it in the kid area on a chair. I asked him if I could keep it. He looked for a price tag and saw that it was a little worn around the ears. He paid for the movie and we walked to the door. I asked again if I could keep it. I had started to really like the dog. It’s eyes almost looked real. We got outside and dad said that if the person that owned it didn’t care enough about it to keep it with him and just left it in a store, then it was “finders keepers”. I asked him what that was. He said “finders keepers losers weepers. If you don’t take care of you stuff, you deserve to lose it. You can cry all you want but if you had taken care of it, then you wouldn’t have a problem.” I was so happy. I had gotten this great stuffed dog with the real looking eyes and no one was mad!
When I went back home, I took the stuffed dog “Bob” with me. Mom said that it was a cute dog. She didn’t ask where I got it but my brother told her that I had found it at the video store. Mom stopped and turned around. “Dad didn’t buy it for you?” she asked. I said no, I had found it in a chair. She asked if we had looked around to see if it belonged to anyone, or had asked someone who worked there if it belonged to anyone. Uncomfortable, I said “No. But I told dad, and he said ‘finders keepers’”. “Oh,” was the only thing my mom said. At first, I started to feel bad, but I loved Bob, he was so soft, and he looked at me with those real eyes like he was so glad that I had found him. I stopped feeling bad pretty quick.
The next weekend, my mom, my brother and I went to the zoo. Before we started looking at the animals, we went into the gift shop. There was so much cool animal stuff. My brother and I ran around looking at everything, and playing with some of the toys. We went to the stuffed animals and I found a great stuffed bear. It was so cute, cuddly and soft. My mom bought it for me and she bought some animal toys for my brother. I hugged that bear so hard and loved it right away.
When we got out of the gift store we all went to the bathroom. We all came out of the stalls, washed our hands and left. My brother was playing with his toys as we went towards the monkeys. I suddenly realized that I had left my bear in the stall sitting on the toilet paper holder. I told my mom and we all raced back to the bathroom. We had only been gone for a couple of minutes, so we knew it would be there. I ran in, and slammed the stall door open. The bear was gone. I yelled that it was gone, and we spent a long time running around looking in the trashcan and into strollers and at people’s hands to see who had it.
I was crying by the time we sat down on the brick wall by the bathroom. My bear was gone. I felt sick. My mom helped me into her lap, as my brother huffed and puffed about people who steal stuff from little kids.
“Do you mean like at the video store?” my mom said quietly.
I stopped breathing for a minute and I think my brother did too. I had cared about my bear. I didn’t have it very long, but I loved it. I had picked it out of all the others as the one that I wanted to take home with me. And someone had taken it. All because I wanted to wash my hands before touching my bear and the water had been so cold and the hand dryer took forever to dry my hands. I had forgotten about my bear for maybe ten seconds and someone took it.
That’s when I realized that some kid had picked out Bob the dog just like I had picked out my bear. Out of all the other dogs, that kid had chosen that one to take home and rub its ears and love it. And maybe that kid had been playing with the Lego and had put the dog in the chair so that it could be like a friend or a brother to play Legos with. And maybe the mom or dad had made them hurry or someone had made that kid think of something else for a couple of seconds and that kid had forgotten Bob. Finders keepers stinks, I thought. Finders keepers is a way for people to keep stuff that doesn’t belong to them. I felt so bad that I cried even harder.
I didn’t get another bear and I didn’t have a very good time at the zoo that day. I really didn’t feel better until I went back over to my dad’s house the next weekend. We went to the video store again to get a movie. I took Bob. I went up to someone who worked there.
“Last time I was in here, I found this.” I held out Bob to the lady who took it from me, “it was over there.” I said as I pointed to the kids’ area.
“Oh! You know what? There was a little girl and her dad in here last week asking about this dog! They left their name and number just in case. She is going to be so happy! What a nice thing to do! Thank you.” She said with a big smile on her face.
I felt much better. Bob was going home.
Shoes - a child's story

I like to walk around in my family’s shoes. In my mom’s high heels because then I know what I’ll look like when I’m tall. And my dad’s shoes so I know what I’ll look like when I’m the dad. Even sometimes my brother’s shoes so I can pretend to be him. Nothing ever happened. I mean, nothing ever changed.
Until one day.
Our neighbor is old Mrs. Smith. She’s mean. Her left leg drags like a monster. She never smiles. She is nice to cats but doesn’t like kids. Especially me. That one day I was talking about, I went out back and saw some slippers. I put them on.
I became like an angel on Mrs. Smith’s back. I saw her kinda young. She was smiling and hugging a man in a uniform. She was getting married. She was laughing and dancing. I saw her playing “ring around the rosey” with two little girls. I see her waving with her girls to her husband in the uniform. She is crying when she reads a letter. She is so sad. He was killed in the war. She is in a cemetery. There are three graves, two are little. Her car was hit by a man who was drinking beer. It killed both of her little girls and that’s why she limps. Her leg was crushed. She sits inside her house and watches movies of her daughters and husband. I never knew she had such bad stuff happen to her.

Our neighbor, Mrs. Miller, is always so happy. She laughs and makes other people laugh. She does nice things for people. I saw her sandals. I put them on.
Mrs. Miller is in high school. She is crying. Girls are laughing and pointing at her. She is very overweight. She runs into the bathroom and eats some potato chips, looks at her reflection and throws the chips across the room. She’s at home. Her dad pinches her stomach and calls her “fatty”. Her whole family is laughing at her. She is in her room. They will laugh with her from now on, she says to herself and not at her. She will be nice and do nice things for people and then people will like her. But inside she hates herself and doesn’t trust anyone. I didn’t know she was so sad.

My dad is never home. He is always talking about work because that’s what he likes most of all. He would rather be at work than with me.
I put on his work shoes.
Dad is at his desk. He has a picture of mom, my brother and me that he looks at all the time. He looks upset. He is sweating. A man comes in and throws papers at him, shouting about the numbers being wrong. He says that he checked them a thousand times; they have to be right. He is worried. He is thinking about mommy, my brother and me. He wants to be home. He wants to make sure that I can get a new bike for my birthday. I didn’t think he knew I wanted a new bike.

Mrs. Telsa helps my mom clean our house. She doesn’t talk to me very much, but that’s ok, she’s our maid. I don’t have to talk to her if I don’t want to. Her same old brown shoes are on our doorstep. I put them on.
She is walking up three wooden steps to a front porch. There is a couch and old toys on it. A woman comes out and greets her. Two little kids come out too. They are her grandchildren. Her daughter lives with her now since her husband lost his job and they lost their house. Mrs. Telsa’s husband works two jobs. Mrs. Telsa gets ready to go work at the grocery store, because she has three jobs. She has two sons, her daughter and two grandkids to feed. She is tired. But she hugs her kids and she loves her husband. She came here a long time ago to get away from her country where there were a lot of problems. Her dad and brother were both taken by policemen and no one ever saw them again. So she and her new husband paid a man who brought them here. For a long time she lived in shelters. Her husband got a car, and they lived in that until they had money to get this house. She is old. But she is proud of what she and her husband have given to their children. Her whole house is the size of my living room. I didn’t know she was so poor and that her life was so hard.
My brother makes straight A’s in school; he is on the football team, has a cheerleader girlfriend and is really popular. He has it so easy.
I find his high-tops in the bathroom.
He didn’t get a scholarship to pay for college like he thought he would. Even though he has been working since he was fourteen and saved all his money, he won’t be able to go to college because we can’t afford it. He walks around with his friends at school and is sad by all their talking about college. He is embarrassed that he can’t go. He envies his friends. He feels ashamed of his family. He wishes he was in someone else’s family, and then feels bad about wanting that. He will never be anything in life. He won’t get an education. He thinks that he will work at some crummy job for the rest of his life. He wishes he was me. He thinks I’m funny. He thinks that I always come out on top. He thinks mom and dad like me more. I always thought that about him.

My teacher is so mean. She won’t let us have any fun. She especially doesn’t like boys. She tries to make the girls happy and lets them do whatever they want. I wish I had a different teacher.
I see her shoes under her desk. I slip them on.
She is at the blackboard explaining something that’s hard but she thinks we are smart enough to understand. Every time she turns her back someone starts talking, when she turns back around all the girls are looking at her, and I have my head on my desk playing with a rubber band. “Is everyone listening and seeing what I am doing, these steps are really important.” I feel her frustration getting big inside of her as I see my head stay on the desk. She calls my name. When I look up I have a really bad look on my face like – “what now? What do you want?” She is in a meeting with the principal. He is saying that she is going to lose her job if we don’t learn all this stuff. We are outside a building. It’s a school. A kid in a wheelchair comes to her. It’s her son who was born with special needs. My teacher is paying a lot of money to keep her son there. I am at her house. She is putting dinner onto plates for her three kids. She only puts a little for herself, but everyone else has a lot. She says she isn’t hungry. I know she is.

My best friend lives in a huge house. He goes skiing and to really cool places on summer vacations. He always has the coolest video games; his house has a media room in it. He has a pool and his parents let him do whatever he wants. He is at my house and his shoes are by the front door. I pull them on.
I’m not sure how to tell you about what happened next because I had never felt it before. I was so sure that I was going to feel excited and happy about being so rich and having so much stuff. But that isn’t it at all. I was with my friend as he listened from the top of his stairs. His mom and dad were arguing. Screaming really horrible things at each other. My friend was so scared. More scared than I have ever been. Panicky scared. He was crying. They were throwing things and saying that they wished they had never met. His dad said that he would kill his mom if she tried to leave him. His mom said that she was going to ruin his business. He heard her scream and a loud slap. He ran down the stairs. His mom was on the floor. His dad was over her. He yelled at his dad to stop. He jumped on his back. His dad pulled him from his back by his arm and threw him into the wall screaming about how he wished he had never been born. My friend hit the wall and slid down. He woke up and he was alone in the kitchen. He was scared. He called for his parents. No one came. He got up but his whole body hurt. He slowly made his way through the huge house to his bedroom. Thoughts ran through his head like a frenzy of buzzing bees – where were his parents? Had they left him? Should he call the police? Again? They knew him from all the other calls but would they take him away and put him a stranger’s home or a shelter like his dad said? Why did his dad hate him? Why did they hate each other? Why did he have to be in this family?
I took off his shoes and ran to my room. My friend was sitting there looking through our yearbook. He smiled as I came in. He seemed so happy. So carefree. His smile was so warm. I went and sat next to him on the floor.
“You know, you’re my best friend. You can call me or come to my house any time you want.”
He looked at me with a puzzled look on his face. “You aren’t going to kiss me or anything are you?”
I laughed and punched his arm, lightly, remembering that he might still be hurt. “In your dreams, pal.”
I suppose I have started writing out of sheer frustration. I am surrounded by people, nice, ordinary, kind family people who for the most part are absolutely blind to what goes on about them. I guarantee that if these people knew what was being done in the name of the "conservative" label, they would absolutely flip out. Because they aren't stupid. They're busy. And they trust that the people who say that they hold the same beliefs are speaking the truth. They hear a lot of background noise (i.e. corruption, deception, money laundering, law breaking, manipulating, etc.) and from time to time they look up as if to question what is going on. But then they hear the leaders and the talk show guys and they nod knowingly "ah ha! liberal media. sour grapes. persecution.." hmmm. And back to their lives they go. They support the war because they support the troops and they honestly believe that releasing the citizens from the mania that was Saddam was a good thing, and granted things could have gone better but for the most part it's coming along nicely. They approved the constitution for crying out loud! That's progress! The liberal media would have you believe that it's all death and destruction and misery but darn it! It's getting better! The whole region is seeing democracy as a good thing and that's just great, isn't it? They shop at Walmart because you can't beat the prices. They give to their churches and volunteer. They staunchly proclaim that they are not racist while "hushing" their voice to express an opinion about the "darker" side of town. They laugh, with a false sense of embarassment when an off-color joke is inevitably made. They vote for the changes to the Texas constitution that would explicitly say that marriage = 1 man and 1 woman, because that's what the Bible says and gays choose to be that way. God doesn't make mistakes. Why would the word of God, the Bible, expressly say that homosexuality is wrong if it's not?
So, I live here, on the inside, because that's where I am. I would prefer that I was in a blue state...a blue town even, but I am not. I have two kids who are going to great schools - one of the pluses to living in a red area is that their schools are really good. I am a stay at home mom who gets to do a lot of "undoing" as far as the education that they are getting. Or at the very least, I am attempting to balance it a little more. The whole abstinance issue makes me physically ill. Mostly because these kids are getting no information, and the behavior hasn't changed. So kids are out there practicing and experimenting, with no information. At least the ones whose parents think the kids are getting sex education at school.
These are not arrogant, capitalist pigs, Bible bashing, anti-choice lunatics. I am surrounded by people who just do not look up and around. They get their information from the conserative sources because that's who they trust. They believe their leaders because they believe in them. They are loyal and commited. To say anything different is to underestimate them. To bash their leaders is not the way to get them see what is going on. They will rally. Constant, relentless, unbiased information is the only way to get them to see that the conservative leadership in this country is heading in the wrong direction. A lot of these guys believe that they should cut taxes to the rich because they are obviously very good with money and if they have more, they will create jobs and drive the economy. The left wing has got to stop attacking the right. The liberals in this country have got to do the following.
Stop apologizing. Liberals are pro-choice, which means pro-woman deciding for herself. We are not necessarily pro-abortion. We believe in caring for the dependents in this country. There is no contradiction here, there is no shame in this. We should be proud. We believe that national healthcare has got to happen. Now. Every other industrialized nation in the world has it, we don't have to go it alone. Send out teams of researchers to get the pros and cons from an assorted mix of countries that have a healthcare system that appears to be working. Interview doctors, nurses, professionals, patients, citizens, well people and sick people, single, married and divorced people and get their opinions regarding their system. Find out costs. Find out waiting time for pediatricians, surgeries, eye glasses. Have a uniform checklist. Then get all the teams back together, sort through the data and develop a system that would work in this country. There is nothing more dibilitating more stessful than having health concerns. Can you imagine the collective sigh that will rise up from this country when we finally tell the citizens of this country that their health matters so much that we will all pay to cover each other? The productivity would skyrocket. There would be a huge crush of people initially but it would calm down, and eventually everyone would be maintaining their health, not waiting until something really horrible starts happening or even worse happens for a while to get it looked into. I can't tell you the number of people that have died due to belated diagnosis. The cost of healthcare is the number one reason for bankrupcy in the middle class. Isn't that pathetic?

So, my goal in this blog is not to bash. Much. Oh I'm kidding! My goal is to try to vent some frustration, and look for viable solutions to the problems I see or run into. It'll make a difference for me since I am often very discouraged by what I see and hear, but if it makes a difference to anyone else, that would be total gravy!