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More songs about buildings and food

September 25, 2008

All of a sudden, although it still feels like summer, it looks like fall. It’s not one of those glorious falls where the alley of maples all burst into flame at once. It’s one where the viburnum leaves turn brown and fall off, one by one, almost as soon as they turn red. The heat has let us hold onto the hummingbirds a little longer this year. As I type this, there are two flirting with the basil and nasturtium flowers spilling out of a pot outside my kitchen door, their emerald green bodies looking even more exotic against the dying foliage.

AJ and I walked to school with The Boy Across the Street this morning. He’s been coming with us most days. He likes to walk, but his mom, who has to take his little sister to kindergarten two towns away, doesn’t usually have time. Frankly, it’s a pretty nice arrangement for all of us. TBAS’s mother doesn’t have to rush around. AJ no longer complains about being the only kid who doesn’t drive to school. And I get to listen to the outrageous conversations the two boys have.

TBAS is a story-teller. It’s not usually about lying to avoid something. I think he does it to impress and I also think he doesn’t really believe AJ will fall for it. But AJ is very gullible and he will believe the most outrageous things if they are delivered with appropriate seriousness. This morning, TBAS told AJ that he’d just been to Bl0ckbust3r (which sells P0k3m0n cards) and he’d seen the card AJ had designed (on a website) yesterday (AJ and TBAS spend a lot of time designing their own P0k3m0n). AJ was excited. Was the card on display? Was it in a package of cards? He wanted details. So TBAS supplied them. And, even though there were any number of good reasons why AJ should have questioned the story, he ate it up because it was something he wanted to hear. Then AJ asked if TBAS would come over to his house after the school and show him the card. TBAS said yes at first but then started to backpedal. Well, he hadn’t actually seen the card. It was still “in development” [this cracked me up entirely]. It would probably take a week or two or six for it to appear in stores. A masterful move, really, because he thinks that this way, AJ will probably forget about the card and he will be off the hook for lying. And the thing is, he is probably right. In any case, AJ nodded in agreement. Of course it would take more than a day. But it was in development! Still exciting!

AJ is a stickler for the truth. It’s his dedication to truthfulness that makes him so gullible. It just doesn’t occur to him that someone would be lying. And when someone does and he knows it, he gets angry and frustrated. TBAS surely wanted to avoid that.

With AJ and TBAS deep in conversation, we turned left on the road that leads us around the back of the police department and walked under the enormous honey locust. We were greeted with a shower of tiny yellow leaves. They covered us and the street like confetti.

“They look like little helicopters,” TBAS observed.

“No they don’t,” said AJ. “What are they?”

“They’re leaves. Look up,” I said. And all three of us stopped in the road and dropped our heads back between our shoulder blades, staring up as another gust of wind baptized us with a fresh crop of yellow.

AJ’s gullibility brings out all kind of emotions in me. I was the same kind of kid, exactly. I trusted implicitly that people would tell the truth. My father was the same way. We seem to have some kind of genetic predisposition to morality in our family. We all grow up dead certain that we know right from wrong and that knowing right from wrong is extremely important. To this day, I am a horrible liar, even when the situation might call for it. But to be gullible is to be extremely vulnerable. I know that TBAS means no harm. In fact, I think it’s his own insecurities, his desperation for AJ to be impressed with him, that inspires his stories. He wants AJ to look up to him. But I watch this happen and as entertained as I am by their conversation, part of me wants to protect AJ from it. I know better. I hold my tongue. But suddenly he looks more fragile.

After we cross over to the sidewalk that runs alongside of the school, AJ and TBAS always like to race. AJ is always frustrated because TBAS always manages to trick him into an advantage, a head start. AJ knows he is faster, but that’s not enough. He wants to beat him up the school to the playground. This morning, he was thinking about the race before we’d even left the house, before TBAS had arrived. It looked like he was going to have it. I started them on a crack in the sidewalk. AJ had taken a comfortable lead when his foot slipped in a pile of wet leaves — brown ones, not yellow — and he tumbled to the ground. He got up in tears, not because he was hurt, but because he hadn’t won. He finally had his chance and he hadn’t made it. TBAS kept running for a second. He hadn’t noticed what had happened until he passed AJ. He immediately stopped and turned around to check and see if AJ was okay. But AJ’s pride was hurt and he turned away.

But TBAS kept trying. “Come on, AJ. We don’t need to race today. Let’s just walk up together.” And hand in hand, the two boys walked up the hill and silently took their places in line. In silence, the lines filed into a single long snake of children. And as leaves shook from the crabapple trees, they walked into the school and the door swung shut.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. freshhell permalink
    September 25, 2008 12:46 pm

    When I was home MOnday, a hummingbird was flying at the front storm door. The red hibiscus flowers attracted and confused him. He flew and buzzed and whirred around the door, pecked at the hibicus flower and then finally left. I love the green shimmer of their feathers.

    I’m a very bad liar but I also trust no one to tell me the truth.

  2. September 25, 2008 3:13 pm

    Do you talk to him about TBAS’s stories later? I’d have him go through the “facts” slowly with you until he can see the holes. Good lesson if you can do it without getting them angry at each other.

  3. September 26, 2008 12:08 am

    Poor AJ. I don’t know what I’d do. Maybe leave it alone. It’s very hard being a kid — they really are so unsuspecting.

  4. September 26, 2008 8:01 am

    In some cases I’ll talk to him about it afterward, but in this case, I won’t, mainly because he’ll have forgotten all about it. He hasn’t mentioned it since. If it comes up again, though, I’ll probably have him think through the logic.

  5. crankygirl permalink
    September 26, 2008 9:27 am

    The R and D for those cards takes a long time. Wow–poor AJ. Credulity is a great quality in a kid.

  6. September 26, 2008 11:00 am

    I’ve often struggled over similar things with my kids. There was one kid I could barely stand to have in my car, because the whole trip anywhere she’d be telling M, who was completely credulous, about all the amazing things she was doing, about all the grown-ups who were totally impressed with her this and her that. I knew it all came from her own insecurity (like many B___ kids, her parents are kind of on the edge), but it was difficult to explain that to M, who would never in a million years engage in any kind of puffery (which made it even more upsetting, because M would take it to heart, and be convinced that everyone was better at anything than she was). It’s only recently that she’s able to get that people might say things, and they might not be true. It’s a kind of sophistication that maybe you’re glad your kid doesn’t need to have — but not having it does put them at risk of having their illusions shattered. (Gee — maybe there’s a coming of age novel somewhere in here –)

  7. September 26, 2008 11:10 am

    I think you’ve nailed it, readersguide. It’s a lack of sophistication. Linked to his gullibility is his fixation on fairness — he gets upset with the races because they are unfair. At the same time he trusts people implicitly and believes what they say, he suspects he’s getting the short end of the stick. It sounds like a contradiction, but its really of a pieces. Eventually the two sides will come together. But I don’t want him to lose the credulity too soon. It’s how he believes in Santa and the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy. When that goes, I’m going to be very, very sad.

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