No, not those Village People. I’m talking about the ones who wind up raising a child whose family cannot, or will not, raise him, even though he lives in their home. I’m talking about the families on my block who are that Village for Adventure Boy.
Lately I have read two books about a little girl who, like Adventure Boy, was pretty much on her own from the time she could walk (A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch, both by Haven Kimmel). If it were not for her neighbors she wouldn’t have had many regular meals, baths, or clean clothing. I don’t believe that Adventure Boy’s situation is that extreme; his lack appears to be in the area of attention and supervision. Yet I could certainly see from her writing that she needed (and ultimately appreciated) the care and attention she got from her neighbors.
But what about the neighbors? What you don’t see in those books is the attitude of the grownups who had to take the place of this child’s parents. You don’t hear them whispering about the role they were playing in this child’s life. You don’t know if they resented having to take care of another child. You don’t know if they sighed when that child appeared at their home before 8 AM, planning to stay the day. Did they react like I did the other day when Adventure Boy helped himself to a yogurt from my back-porch refrigerator and left the door wide-open on a summerlike afternoon, until I found it two hours later? Did they react like my neighbor did when she found Adventure Boy had let himself into her house without knocking, so he could play with Cutie Pie and Little Brother? Did they agonize over what will happen in a few weeks when the pool opens up, because there is no way they want to be responsible for an extra-adventurous five-year-old at a swimming pool? Did they breathe a quick prayer to that little one’s guardian angel every time he sailed across the street on his bike without looking for cars?
My head wants to say that I am not my brother’s keeper. Then my heart reminds me where that sentence led.
So where’s the boundary line? Where do I draw it? What would the Village People do?
I don’t know how to figure it out, but until I do, I’ll be doling out those toaster waffles and cups of apple juice–because what else can I do for this child who’s been bringing his favorite blanket here these past couple of days?