A few days ago, I was walking wild dog Kevin when I couldn’t help but notice a couple of small kids on little battery cars coming down the road. I live in a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood filled with young families with small children. As the times go I’d say it is one of the safest places a kid could play outdoors. These kids were young maybe about five and seven if that much. A younger brother, an older sister. What I immediately noticed – how do I put this – they were dressed for the apocalypse. Like specters from some rendition of The Walking Dead or the new series, Lost. Wearing goggles, faces covered in cloth, hair covered, gloves on, carrying various items that could really come in handy. Let’s consider it extreme survival gear.
I ventured on down to the dog path and considered the image of them coming down the street. Thinking about how times had changed since my cousins and I were running rampant in the streets chasing mosquito spray trucks like complete idiots. These kids were prepared for serious survival. We were laughingly running right into a cloud of death. Times do change.
On returning from the dog walk the children were farther down the street, just in front of me. They recognized me from other walks or maybe mostly the big, furry dog. I waved, they waved back. Obviously, I was someone to be trusted in the apocalypse.
The little boy pulled the scarf down from his mouth and nose and said, “There are spores out here and we have to . . .”
I lost the next part because his older sister took over the conversation with, “Yeah, and look I have a face mask,” she said after removing said face mask from her face so she could communicate, “and it’s connected to the oxygen machine that is in my backpack.” Indeed, the tube was running to her backpack.
The little brother had stopped his vehicle at this point and gotten out to walk a little closer to me so that he could show me his survival gear. “Look, I’ve got this curved knife.” He branished some kind of plastic thing that looked more than sufficient, “I can sling snakes with it if I need to.”
“Why, yes, you can, what a great idea.”
“And, I have this too.” He produced something strapped to his side that looked like a club.
I felt that as a mother and a Zaza (a grandmother in other terms) I had to chime in. To offer some sage wisdom, a word of advice maybe. So, I did.
“Wow! You guys are really prepared. It’s just amazing.”
The little boy stuck his chest out, proud as could be and the older sister, nodded her head in agreement. I continued my praise.
“I mean you guys are gonna still be standing when other people are down.”
They both enthusiastically agreed with this.
“And you’ve got each other’s backs, you know? That’s so important. Don’t forget that part.”
“We won’t,” they responded.
Then me and wild dog were back at the house and for the rest of the day and into the night I contemplated this image of them coming down the street, covered head to toe, carrying various weapons and survival things like, oxygen.
I thought about playing with my cousins in the summer at my Grandmother’s. We were doorstep cousins, same ages or just months younger or older. When I was six and one of my cousins about eight we snuck away from the rest of the gang and tore a piece of paper off of an old brown bag. Then we took pencils and created an elaborate treasure map where X marked the spot of some wondrous treasure. We went back outside and at the opportune time scuffed up the map in the dirt and half buried it where it could be found. Of course, in little time the map was discovered by the others who declared it an amazing mystery to be solved and a treasure to be found.
We spent the rest of the afternoon seeking buried jewels. The cousin and I who had masterminded the whole thing as much sold on the idea as the others. I guess, if times had changed and we’d heard tell of things like mushroom spores and coming end of the world we wouldn’t have wasted our time on silly things like treasure maps but instead mapping out survival strategies. But I am so glad that there was a ‘once upon a time’ that felt innocent and timeless. The summers spooling on forever full of the simple magic of wading creeks, skipping rocks, and chasing feral kittens around a barn.
The day after my encounter with the children I took wild dog for his walk down through the path in the woods. So beautifully in bloom. Yellow wild flowers blooming, big stalks of yellow other things and other yellow things and lots of yellow blooming fuzzy things. So, fall like. By the time I got back to the house my eyes were watering, my throat swollen, my nose running and me thinking – this doesn’t feel normal. Then I remembered that little kid, black scarf around his face, another scarf around his neck, camo hat on. And his words rang back to me loud and clear.
“There are spores out here. We’ve got to protect ourselves.”
Do tell, kid. Do tell.