There’s this thing that happens in our neighborhood sometimes. It is as if a tangible change takes place in the air (and I’m not talking about the pollution), and suddenly the environment feels tense and toxic. I call it feeling “prickly”. It is as if my skin is sensing or reacting to something, and the hairs on my arms are just a little bit raised.
It has become prickly here the last two days. There is a bunch of activity at the south end of our street that is strange and suspicious; there has been an increase in people out and about who we do not recognize and who seem to walk in some specific patterns; there are new drug dealers working out of a new corner across from our house. I know that at least three people were murdered in our neighborhood over the past few days, and yesterday I learned that just south of Jefferson is being hit really hard by burglaries–unsophisticated, likely addiction-induced according to local police.
My dreams have been affected, and even Mercy did not want to take her nap today because she said that something was trying to come into her room to eat her.
Yesterday I was out in front of our house playing with the kids like usual. Only now that Aaron is walking I am discovering that it is really stressful to be out there. Mercy has her little special places she likes to play: the dirt underneath the giant palm leaves next door (or, “the jungle” as we call it); “the cage”, which is the area behind the chain link fence between our property and our neighbor’s; the puddle that is almost always at the end of our driveway from Paul’s watering; and her “podium”, the cement slab that tilts ever so much when you stand on it.
I can trust Mercy to stay out of the street and to do what she knows is allowed; but that does not mean I ever take my eyes off of her. Now that Aaron walks, and has developed a fair amount of speed the last two weeks, I find myself whipping around, back and forth, trying to keep tabs on both. And Aaron does not have ANY kind of sense about him, so not only do I need to watch him, but I also have to be within grabbing/catching/restraining distance.
Now I realize this describes the life of every parent of multiple small children. But what is feeling hard for me right now is that when we play out front, I am also always shooting looks north and south in case something starts to happen that would make me take the kids inside. So yesterday, especially with it being prickly right now, it just added up to so much anxiety for me. How deeply I longed for a yard; a safe place outside to run and play. This is only going to get more difficult here, I have to realize. We go to the park often enough, but again, there is the constant watching for that moment when the number of gangbangers officially exceeds your comfort zone, or when the number of times a specific car circles the park begins to terrify. When your child’s playground is a place where girls’ faces get shot while playing basketball, you can’t be expected to do anything else.
I memorized the 23rd Psalm when I was a very young girl, and I used to recite it in my head any time I felt afraid. I can even remember saying it out loud to myself as I was pulled behind the boat while learning to waterski on Newman Lake! Those are some very good words for me to remember today.