This week so far, chronologically:
Monday afternoon: Kate and her two-year old are witnesses to a shooting in front of their house. Right in front of their eyes.
Monday night: Our next door neighbor, Uncle Lee, has a heart attack while riding his bike home and dies. We consequently round up all 11-13 children next door, feed them dinner, and take care of them for four hours.
Tuesday morning: Elisa, while working out with her class at the Y on the river front, spots a dead body floating in the river.
Tuesday night: The race wars on West Park erupt. Whites and blacks from specific houses on our block are fighting. There is a thirteen year old who is carrying a gun around in his drawstring backpack. He passes it off to another thirteen year old.
Thursday morning: We come to learn that the man Elisa found in the river was Gary. Gary is a homeless man that we have known for many years.
The only thing I think I can write about is Monday night with our babies. The kids next door are eternally dear to us. To make the distinction between the four next door neighbor kids and every other neighbor kid on our block (and there are a lot), we call them “our kids.” And they feel like it. Their mom is single and works full time because she is a fierce provider. Consequently, though, they spend a lot of time wandering around outside by themselves. Since we are normally doing something outside, we are given plenty of opportunities to teach them about gardening, the chickens, the bees, etc. During the summer all their east side friends, cousins, and whoever stays at their house– so things have been busy!
Monday night when I got home from work, Ashley was playing a board game (I should say, the board game: SORRY) with Javier. I went inside to change quickly, eat something, and head out to the co-op for open shop. Shortly before we had planned to leave, when we were gathering our things and filing our bikes out of the foyer, Ashley runs in the house and explains what has happened. “Rakiya is in their house screaming that Uncle Lee is dead! The kids are all going to come over here until they figure out what’s going on.”
The boys headed to c0-op and I stayed behind to watch the kids with Ashley. By the time I set up Chutes and Ladders with Nay-Nay, Naya, and Lexi, Rakiya had moved to the street, screaming in disbelief. “Who’s telling me that Uncle Lee is dead? No! Where is my uncle?! Somebody tell me where my Uncle is!” Somebody pulls up in a car and takes Rakiya away, presumably to wherever Uncle Lee is. Pete, Javier’s dad, is the only one left at the house. He asks us to please keep watching the kids. Pete, Lexi, and Bean take off, and there’s Ashley and I, 11 kids in tow.
Let me tell you what doesn’t work: cramming 11 kids on to our porch to play two board games. We alerted the troops (the Gilli + Melissa) and threw on dinner for the kids. What was the only thing we had quantity enough of for kids? Annie’s gluten-free brown rice macaroni and cheese. The Gilli brought over some more pasta, we made a big ol’ salad, and set up the kids at our picnic table. There, we ate like a family. A family with 11 kids, 5 adults, all of whom look nothing alike. The kids loved it. Awan said, “We should do this all the time! Play board games then eat together.” Ashley laughed and countered, “Oh yeah? Who’s going to cook all that food?” Awan responded with his typical cute attitude saying that he would cook next time– he’s eight.
We all cleaned up dinner. By this time we had somehow also planted two blueberry bushes with the kids, which is kind of a blurry memory. We walked down to the park and the boys all played basketball. There were only two girls, and they wanted nothing to do with basketball, along with the younger boys, so we all played on the playground. Mostly monkey bars, which they need some serious assistance with. After 4-year old Naya’s proposed make-up and tea party was a big failure with the boys, they all decided to play restaurant. So there we were, eating imaginary frozen yogurt, pizza, sandwiches, etc. They were delicious and very expensive. $70 for the pizza–what a rip off.
Once it started to get dark we took off. Walked home with the kids, exhuasted, and left them with their grandfather. What a night with our babies. I hope that they will be okay without Uncle Lee. He was a very consistent presence for the kids in their home. Our other neighbor Ms. BJ and Uncle Lee had a special little friendship. Uncle Lee was always trying to get Ms. BJ to go out with him. They would go on walks to Van’s together, relax on the porch together, just chatting. I hope Ms. BJ feels peace soon. There is defintiely a void now where Uncle Lee was.