Today, I was weeding the raingarden at the community center. It was a cold day, in the 30s, and my kid was whining about his hands and feet being cold. He wanted to go home, having gotten bored watching me yank on zoysia rhizomes and curse the bane of decent, nature-loving people everywhere.
Sorting through the stupidgrass to find the buffalo grass and Virginia rye was interesting for me. I was looking for the prairie plants and wildflowers, the indian paintbrush roots, and the joe-pie weed. But the kid saw dirt, leaves, and brown grass and it was killing him.
So I sent him to the neighborhood library across the street. He didn’t want to go, but I told him he had a choice. He could watch me scratch around on the cold ground or he could go to the library. But if he chose to watch me hands-and-knees it through the garden, he couldn’t complain.
He went across the street finally. Everything was cool, I was able to work in my garden on a cloudy, cold, hazy day. I got lost in it, admiring the way that the black-eyed Susans and curly-top ironweed had shaded the ground and kept the shittygrass from taking over altogether.
Then, for some reason, I looked toward the library. The kid was outside. I sent him over there hoping he’d find some books that would interest him. But I thought that was all right. At least he was on safe ground and entertained.
I don’t know how long I worked. Ten minutes or something. When I looked after the kid again, he and another kid were swinging at each other like Ali and Spinks.
A good, loud “hey” stopped them in their tracks. Two kids, the one fighting my kid, and his friend shot into the library. My son hid behind a concrete pillar.
By the time I crossed the street and made the front door of the library, the kids who ran into the library were on their way back out again. This time, escorted by the librarian.
So, what happened? What are you fighting about?
Ah, he did..
I don’t care, I said. I don’t care who started it or who hit who first. Both of you were fighting and both of you are in trouble with me. The library people don’t need this, they have enough to do without you causing trouble.
Now, I said, if I ever see you fighting ever again, I’m going to snatch you up by your ears and deliver you to your mamas. Don’t think I won’t do it.
My son was trying stifle a smile.
That goes for you, too, sonny. I’ll get you right up to your mother, I don’t care how many blocks we have to walk to get home.
I turned to address all the kids now. From now on, I said, you see a fight coming, you go somewhere else. I don’t care if someone comes at you, you find someplace else to be. You don’t and I’ll snatch you up by your ears. You look the wrong way at someone wanting to start something, I’m gonna snatch you up by your ears.
Do you understand?
Thing is, my son got himself kicked out of the library. He didn’t go in there and look at books. He found a couple of his trouble-making pals and started jacking around in the library like it was a playground.
Once outside, they started playing. The play got rough and one of the kids started swinging on my son. My kid, no angel, probably started it. And if he didn’t, he was trying to smack little Robbie with everything he had.
I can be pretty scary, even to adults, when I get going. Deep, penetrating voice coming out of a human pier. For kids, it can be really frighting. But that wasn’t why they settled down and didn’t give me any lip. They didn’t get frightened and wide eyed solely because of my size and volume.
They got humble, and fast, because they knew that I wasn’t kidding when I told them about dragging them to their mothers by their ears.