Storytelling

One of the things I wanted to write about in regard to Melody and myself involves the skill involved in the storytelling – the presentation and progression involved in showing what needs to be shown, without starving or overfeeding the audience. We get a wonderful, thought provoking, moving story without being left short and wanting more, beyond a modicum of curiosity or blanks we might like but needn’t have filled. Much is shown, not stated in dialog, enhanced with setting sequences to songs. I was sure this would be a huge post, so I have hesitated to start. Perhaps I can start, get as far as I get, then complete the thoughts in subsequent post(s) if needed.

I started writing a book a couple years ago, finally bringing together some ideas and things niggling at my mind for many years as to setting and such. I ended up drifting away from it, partly because I got busier, partly because writing is hard, and partly because loss of focus, direction, or inspiration can derail you for a time or a lifetime. Melody, specifically the way the story was presented, has helped inspire me. Along with that, I’ve had some additional ideas, and may be ready to try again. As I wrote, it was already visual and film-like, to me. Not hard, being inspired by my childhood, where I grew up, and my kids.

Needless to say, anything that goes into this kind of detail about the movie will spoil it if you haven’t seen it.

First, the setting is established while a Bee Gees song that had been unfamiliar to me plays. Completely suitable, though, since it talks about morning, ends in evening, and how it’s the morning of his life. It is the morning of the lives of the children involved, and the introductory song seems to touch on a dreamy relationship at the end of the song. It has a childlike innocence and magic, and urges patience. This fits with details much later in the film, but could have helped inspire it:

building castles in the shifting sands
in a world that no one understands

I probably had heard and dismissed the song years ago, but I love it now. It means so much.

You see the area where to story will take place from the air, and then you meet Daniel and Ornshaw as they participate in Boy’s Brigade. Ornshaw first, in fact, then Daniel held up as a comparison. We get an idea that Daniel’s mother is obnoxious and snobby. We get an idea of Ornshaw’s situation and see Daniel’s home life. Even his father makes fun of his mother’s antics.

Daniel seems sweet and innocent, but lights his father’s newspaper on fire by way of acting out. The song we hear playing on the radio is the same one the kids will dance to days later, a nice touch.

Then we meet Melody, the title character, to instrumental strains of her theme song, as the rag man arrives out front and she looks wistfully at what’s in his cart for trade. This introductory part does the job of portraying a more childlike side she is perhaps already losing. It also, in a more subtle way than Danny’s acting out, shows the anarchic nature of children when she takes clothing from the house to trade for things.

Back with Daniel, we learn he is talented at painting, but his mother objects to his moving to painting nudes and having something that someone gave him at school to show what they look like, She subtly destroys his painting and diverts him with the model rocket his father had broken, while she takes the material showing topless women. Thus we learn he’s good at painting and building models, and cement that she’s a lousy parent, not very nice at heart.

Back to Melody, we establish that she plays the recorder, which she’s doing in the bathroom to her mother’s annoyance. It appears that her mother and grandmother might not know she had traded clothing for a goldfish. The pinwheel is a symbolic connection to childhood. Sent to find her dad at the pub and get money for ice cream (we never see ice cream until she is with Daniel at the seaside, intentional resonance or not), she takes her newly acquired goldfish for a walk. During this part, Melody Fair by the Bee Gees plays, and it’s essentially a music video for the song. She doesn’t go find her father at first, but lets the fish go for a swim in a metropolitan water trough, still in the same spot at Lambeth and Kensington Roads almost fifty years later, but as a planter.

After catching the fish back into its jar, she heads to the pub, which is also still there. She looks through the windows, and into the door as an entering customer holds it open, but waits outside, looking worried. I had the impression kids weren’t allowed in. Her dad steps out, drink in hand, no indication how he ever knew she was there. we see her show the fish and presumably explain her mission, and he gives her money and tousles her head. She may make fun of him spending all his time in the pub later, and may glare at him repeatedly as only a girl that age can, but they obviously adore each other. She walks off. We segue into a scene of mayhem as kids race through an overgrown cemetery to school.

The initial introduction of the main two characters, and to a lesser extent the tertiary main character, are basically complete and now we set the stage with the school and surroundings that will play a big role. There’s an extended crowd scene of kids doing as much mischief as they can manage on the way to class. We meet the headmaster and get a humorous introduction to both the lame instruction and the challenge the kids can be.

That segues into kids going to morning recess, or break. The play games, fight, hang out and talk, one of them smokes, and we get to meet some of the supporting cast of friends. We see Melody in the context of a big group of friends, including the one who has kissed boys and is most advanced. Very much 5th grade as would have been familiar to me in 1971/1972. All the girls laugh when Muriel says she never used to kiss boys because she thought kissing would bring babies.

We move to history class with Daniel and Ornshaw, with more humor about the teaching. Ornshaw asks a valid question, showing how smart he actually is, but gets treated as cheeky and stupid.

After school, some boys go out by railroad tracks while one of them tries his latest attempt at a homemade explosive. Daniel follows. He’s apparently new and has no friends in the school yet. They tell him to go away, but Ornshaw defends him and he joins in. Bomb is a dud and they go to the bus stop. First bus leaves without most of the kids, then Ornshaw and Daniel establish their friendship by going out on the town, to Trafalgar Square, running around and goofing off to Give Your Best to Your Friends. This parallels a similar, later sequence when he is with Melody.

When Ornshaw needs to get home, Daniel freaks him out by getting a taxi, because money. This is one of many ways in which class distinctions are established.

We find that Ornshaw takes care of his grandfather and will have hell to pay if he doesn’t get home now. Daniel volunteers his mother to come help them out, as she does social welfare volunteer work.

That ends the beginning part of the film, where the basics are established. Melody and Daniel haven’t met yet. Daniel and Ornshaw had immediately become besties. This makes Melody displacing Ornshaw possible, because it will put Melody into Daniel’s life. At least, sooner rather than later. Same school, same year, they could have met eventually.

Now, my story started with minimal setup, then action, of sorts. That could work, but now I am thinking that maybe the kids should be better introduced. In writing it can be explained, but if it were on screen, there would have to be establishing scenes that show in a wider way where they are, who they are, why they are there, and how they reach the scenario where the action starts. I figured out how I can make this happen and give what comes next a more logical basis to boot. Since I was thinking about the story and the pacing as a result of this, I also solidified how to deal with one of my concerns about the later sequences. For that matter, they are not the only character and scenario to be introduced. That one was actually going to have more of an introduction, but I see how I can improve it, and perhaps that will unstick me on that part. I hadn’t even been able to begin writing it, and had written the character starting from the point where he meets the other three.

This observation is more about the storytelling subsequently in the film, but I was struck by the use of vignettes separated in time, sometimes ambiguously so, and by what was left out because every little thing need not be told or shown. It might not affect my writing, but I also observed just how much can be conveyed by minimal action. Tiny bits of dialog. Expressions, looks. Tracy Hyde was a master of that. It’s a wonder she didn’t have more of an acting career, but perhaps that’s a reflection of how poorly Melody did at the box office, and how long it languished before getting a DVD release in 2010.

I may break down the rest of the story later. I also need to talk about my Melody-like experiences, and about the mechanics of production. Having been there for one long day of shooting footage with a bunch of kids, I can imagine how grueling it was. All the more so after hearing the description of the whole day of shooting it took just for the obnoxious dinner party, and the large number of takes it took of the scene in the headmaster’s office, where the director thought he’d never get Mark Lester riled up enough to express Daniel’s anger.

Melody Timeline

This may be too ambitious. I may need to save a draft and come back, but hey.

As I may have touched on lightly before, I am intrigued by the timeline of the events that are and are not depicted in the film Melody. Not like I haven’t spoiled away without mentioning it before, but this is going to cover pretty much the entire film’s events. You can watch it free on YouTube, in some quality. I am going to get the DVD when and if I can manage it. I expect that to be a revelation, between the sound and picture quality and the viewing size.

First the three main characters are introduced. It isn’t a school day, which suggests perhaps a Saturday. I have other things to say about this sequence, but that’s a whole post.

It’s clearly not winter, or even the near outskirts of winter, even such as it might be in London, at any time. We are not seeing an entire school year, nor are we seeing the beginning of the school year. The kids in their level are clearly established and comfortable in their school. My understanding of the education system there would make it their first year in that school, with the first five years, equivalent to kindergarten through 4th grade, having been elsewhere.

The film having been written around First of May by the Bee Gees suggests that we could interpret the timing in general to have been around that part of the year, with the first itself maybe having been a significant date. I’d propose it to be the date they hung out after school and she took him home for tea, or else the date he fell in love with her when seeing her in dance class.

We have the introduction, which sparks the friendship with Ornshaw and gives us an idea what the three of them are like.

Then there’s a day when Daniel and Ornshaw hang out after school and we learn more about everyone, between that and scenes in school. Interestingly, we see that up until that afternoon, Daniel really isn’t in with, buddies with, the other boys in the school, almost as if he’s a newcomer.

The third day depicted is when Daniel sees and falls in love with Melody, then follows her after school, and finally shows up at Ornshaw’s humble abode to help with housekeeping.

Next day depicted we see an assembly. Ornshaw creates a whisper brigade when he sees Daniel staring at Melody, resulting in her looking back.

The following scene could be the same day, or a different one. I choose to call it a different day. Daniel drags his cello to the music room, finds her waiting to have a lesson or whatever, and plays a duet with her on recorder after her friend Rhoda gets called in by the teacher.

Still on the same day, in the evening, we see Daniel suffering a dinner party with his parents and their friends. We see Melody watching TV while eating dinner with her mother and grandmother. It turns out she forgot to pick up her pink dress at the cleaners. She blames it on the man in the raincoat at the cemetery, leading to an exchange in which we see that she is a smart-ass, and that she obviously likes Daniel a lot. We never see a scene like even a more subdued view of what she leads them on with, and it may or may not be based on anything at all.

Next day, the lunch scene. After he’s done reminding us he played Oliver, Daniel tries to sit with Melody in the cafeteria. She doesn’t say no, but just says her friend Maureen usually sits there. It’s possible she might have made room, but Ornshaw retrieves him and lots of kids laugh. She stares a little at Daniel across the room afterward, and makes a rude face at Ornshaw.

Then there’s a monthly dance. This strikes me as a Saturday thing, or a Friday thing. Kids have come to it in street clothes, rather than what they’d be expected to wear to school. It can’t be the same day as the lunch scene. She’s dancing enticingly. Daniel is hanging with Ornshaw and a bunch of other boys, mostly making fun of the dance. Daniel gets Ornshaw to go out on the floor and offer to dance with Melody’s friend Peggy while he dances with Melody, if they’re willing. It’s going great until Peggy revolts, insults Ornshaw’s dancing, and he kicks her. Afterward, still daytime, the boys gather to see the latest homemade explosive tested. Melody puts on makeup in the bathroom until her mother calls her for tea and she wipes it off, looking alarmed and sad.

The next scene is athletics day, what we might call field day in my neck of the woods. And if that works the same, it’s right at the end of the school year, in the last weeks, if not days. I hadn’t thought of that aspect of the possible timing before. This is when they make unimaginably perfect use of the song To Love Somebody.

This segues into a new school day in which Daniel and Ornshaw get in trouble with the Latin teacher and have to go after school for a paddling. Afterward, Melody is waiting and despite her not saying a word and Ornshaw’s best efforts, Daniel goes with her. Cue the song that is their theme: First of May. This is the big day when they are officially together, such as it is at 11. They hang out all afternoon. She points out that if he’s been going around telling everyone he loves her, why not tell her. Then she reads a gravestone where the wife died after 50 years of happy marriage, and the husband followed her after only 2 months. This becomes perhaps the most famous dialog of the film. She asks if he’ll love her that long. He says yes. She doubts. He says “I’ve loved you for a whole week already, haven’t i?” They smile about it. They go to her flat. She opens the door, steps in, and when he hesitates, she pulls her in by his school tie. Too funny! They have tea with her family and she glares at her father a lot, as only a girl around that age can.

The “loved you a week already line” is a clue that it’s been a week since the day he fell, which definitely means my thinking later about two things being the same day would be right.

The state of vegetation at this point, visible particularly in the cemetery, would indicate it’s pretty late in spring or getting into summer. British school goes much longer than in the US, so near the end of the school year would actually be in July. That would make this not May 1st, and would mean substantial time had already passed if the meet cute happened on May 1st. Probably that’s a red herring, an artifact of the song used in and toward the concept for the movie. Conversely, filming could simply have gone on long enough for me to think it’s later in the year than is being depicted. We know filming was taking place in and around May 1970, since Tracy Hyde turned 11 on the set in May. I don’t know when it started or just how long it took. They used the large number of child extras for mob scenes early and then moved on to scenes with fewer people.

The next day that is shown is the day the two of them skip school and go to the amusement park and seaside on a train. There is no way they planned that and did it the very next day. I just don’t buy it. Sure, it’s possible, but they’d effectively just gotten together. There’s a clue later that there are days of life before that we don’t see because you don’t show every detail of everything on film.

The next day, beyond a doubt the actual next day, is when they face the headmaster’s wrath for skipping school. Now, they tell him they want to get married. Well, Daniel does, and she looks startled. Somehow, when the each get to class, the classmates know or extrapolate their desire to marry. They have a very bad day. This leads to the famously heartbreaking scene of them sitting in the cemetery in the rain, her head on his shoulders, him holding his satchel over their heads to try to keep some of the rain off. That day ends with her sad, frustrated parents not doing a good job with why she can’t get married and what maybe should actually happen next. Her father makes it clear that Daniel has come home for tea with her a number of times, and they really like him. That points to some number of days and amount of time spent hanging out together that we don’t see on screen. Daniel is in bed, fidgeting thoughtfully. I have to write about the differences between the respective parents and families sometime.

Finally, the last day shown also seems like one that might not have been planned until later, so might not be the very next day. All the more so because of the reaction the classmates initially had toward them wanting to be married. Now the classmates are helping, even if some are still amused or think it’s a lark. It seems like the rebellion had to have taken some planning. However, this might have been possible earlier in the school day and during break, since the kids actually left school during morning break and didn’t return. I am inclined to place this the very next day, but would believe it if I were told it was later.

So how many days were we shown? Let’s see…

We are shown 12 days for sure, if I counted right scrolling through the above, and we can add in a pair of Sundays, for 14 days.

If they go consecutively to that point, Friday is the duet, unless it’s on the same day as the assembly. It could be. She and Rhoda seem like they might be talking about Daniel staring at her. If that’s Friday, we skip a weekend until the next school day, and the lunch scene can’t be until Monday. If not, lunch scene could be Friday. If we’re going for the most compact timeline possible, that’s Friday and the dance is Saturday, so something happened 6 days that week, 1 day the prior week, and we’ve covered two Sundays.

That makes athletics day the Monday after the dance. I am taking that to be a standalone day, devoted to that stuff.

Tuesday would be the big day when they get together officially and have tea with her family. We are shown him going to tea then. It is implied by her father that he went to tea some number of times afterward. That’s the black box. All that came before could be back to back, but there’s the implication that there’s a gap before the next day we are shown, or her father phrases poorly. Since he fumbles for words in other ways, that’s possible. Daniel having loved her a week already, if he’s being exact, measures from the Tuesday before, which would indeed have been the day it happened. That’s a straight shot of consecutive days, and makes sense to me based on the extent to which I have been there in my youth.

On some subsequent day, not likely the next one, the kids skip school for the seaside. If it’s consecutive, then it’s Wednesday., day 12. Definitely the next day after that is the bad day of fallout, day 13, a Thursday. If it’s all consecutive, without those extra days of the relationship building and taking him home for tea, the final day is Friday, day 14. If I figured it right.

I’m figuring life happens, and it needed some build to get from the establishment of the relationship to the day at the seaside, so it could have been as long as weeks before then, but afterward the whole thing wraps quickly. The timeframe from meeting the characters to the end is probably not much more than a month, even if it’s more than 14 days.

All of this really makes me want to post a commentary about the parents. It’s late for bed, so not now. I thought this would be quicker, but I got too descriptive. There was a reason for the blog name, way back in the day. I’ll have to review this tomorrow and edit if I typed anything wrong or goofed in other ways.

Melody Remake

Melody is definitely a product of its time. One of the topics that came up in the BFI roundtable video was someone wanting to do a remake. The director and writer didn’t understand how that would be possible, on the one hand, and on the other hand described Moonrise Kingdom, partly inspired by Melody, as a remake. That movie is one I’ve never seen, that never pinged my radar, but that I’d now like to see. It appears to be funnier and perhaps less adorably innocent, while leaning that way.

But a remake? A new Melody? Hard to imagine. An exact analog? Just about as hard to imagine. You might have to do it as a time travel movie to capture anything like it, or as a memory/dream of the past. I could totally see either of those kinds of scenarios. Peggy Sue Got Married, but with a childhood crush. Since mine all went wrong, I could imagine making one go right, or giving it a better shot. But if you go back and are the youngster, knowing what you know, you’re not exactly innocent. Maybe you go back as a friend or classmate and exert influence.

You know what I wouldn’t mind? A book version. Not sure it’d sell, but the film leaves me wanting more detail, to know more about what they are thinking and feeling, and about their families and situations. I’d been thinking to post about the timeline of the movie, what happens when, how much time passes between scenes/events, and how much time the whole thing covers. Maybe I’ll launch right into that, now it’s on my mind. I am normally a reader of SF and fantasy, though I’ve been known to read almost anything. What would you call it? Fictional biography? Young adult romance? Juvenile romance? Emphasize the school aspect, the other kids and the revolt, and call it something else?

Yeah, I don’t think a remake seems like a good or viable idea. A direct one would be a period piece, but the past is a foreign country and it’s hard to capture the scenery or the feel with modern locations. A book? I’d read a book that was the exact story, expanded. Heck, I’d read the script it was made from, and watch any deleted scenes. It’s a shame it was made in pre-VHS days, let alone pre-DVD days. Few people even had cable TV then. If Melody appeared now and had mediocre box office, it’d be out on DVD shortly, complete with deleted scenes, interviews, etc. It’s amazing we have the 17 minutes of “making of” footage we do on YouTube.

Melodye and a Dog Named Boo

Funny thing with the Melody movie discovery is that I have a story of my own involving that name and with a connection to 1971, but the name was spelled Melodye. I never knew the name until my recounting the story on Facebook led someone to goad me into researching.

However you spell it, in retrospect it’s a great name and I could easily have used it for my daughter. I’d long since realized the same about Molly. But that’s neither here nor there.

When I was a kid, on the green in the town of East Bridgewater would be free concerts on the gazebo/bandstand. I’d go sometimes, usually with my grandparents, sometimes with additional family. A local country group called The Chisholm Brothers played more than once. While I was never a big country fan, it was fun, especially since my grandfather had taught one of the guys to play harmonica and got pointed out in the audience one time.

In 1971, Lobo released Me and You and a Dog Named Boo. I loved that song from the first, and still do. It’s hard to resist singing along. That’s the 1971 connection, but I have no idea what year we are in at the concert. I can guess. Obviously the earliest it could be is sometime 1971, if the song was released early enough int he year to be a hit before those summer concerts. No way, even if I didn’t know I was older than ten. (This all brings to mind another topic: music and my life. Note to self…)

It wasn’t 1974. I wasn’t that old. Thus it was 1972 or 1973. I believe it was the former, because the following summer I’d have been focused on hanging with my friend and would have been less likely to have stayed with my grandparents a lot. 1972 Put me at 11, and a sensitive age. I was in chorus and loved to sing, but was terrified of singing alone in front of others. Though that is its own story and had more of a basis than mere shyness or anxiety.

So here are these guys, performing at this little concert on the green, and they put the daughter of one of them up to try her hand at singing for us. She was older than me. Three years older, I now know, and that would have been my guess. I was 11, she was 14, and she sang Me and You and a Dog Named Boo beautifully. I was smitten. Obviously it was one of those transient things, if you don’t count that I never forgot it, and never forgot how it felt to be instantly taken with her. Not to mention admiring her voice, her nerve getting up there and performing as I was sure I would never be able to dare, her choice of song, and the fact she did it so well.

I kind of miss the mystery. Having searched starting with little but her surname, now I know she was Melodye Chisholm, now Bushkin. I also learned that I knew her aunt’s family when I was younger. Apart from having attended my childhood church – her father still does, so I could have found out a lot of this just by asking my sister the right questions – her cousin was a good friend of my cousin, and we spent a fair amount of time hanging out when I was around my late teens and maybe into my twenties. Small world.

So there’s my Melodye story inspired by my attention having been drawn my Melody.

Melody Ending Again

Revisiting my discussion of the ending of Melody from the prior post, Discovering Melody, after seeing a video of a BFI roundtable discussion that included Waris Hussein, Alan Parker, Mark Lester, and Sheila Steafel. Also contributing is a rewatch of a “making of” video from the time when it was filming, in which they talk to some of the cast and crew, and show small bits being filmed and directed.

One of the themes being explored was the anarchic nature of children. The ending seemed a bit extreme, but it had been brewing through the film. The teachers were depicted as being lousy, and the kids were increasingly rebellious until the proverbial explosion. Since Daniel and Melody could be considered “good kids,” it was funny that they were at the center of it, or the spark for it, in the end, but hey. Both of them are also shown being kids and being random, naughty, rebellious, or wise asses. Lighting his father’s newspaper on fire always struck me as completely out of character for Daniel, but that’s funny because it was still the establishing scenes of the movie and we didn’t know him that well yet. His father made me think of Mike Brady. Looking at IMDB, I can see why. They were also just two years apart, so of an age at the time.

The director or writer also referred to Melody and Danial “running away.” I wondered if they meant that was what the two were doing at the end, or if they meant the day playing hookie to the seaside and amusement park.

Notwithstanding that they might be trying to run away, they’d still end up home and back in school. While it’s clearly late in the school year at that point, it clearly wasn’t the final day.

On another note, before it’s off to work, in the other post I noted that the ages of Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde were the same. She turned 11 during filming, in May 1970. He was actually a year older, turning 12 in July, probably after filming was done. So they were both “11″ during at least part of the shoot, but the ten month difference would explain why they seem so identical in apparent maturity. If that makes sense. Girls tend to be ahead, so it made it seem more likely they’d latch onto each other. Plus his character was artistic and thoughtful, all the more reason his impish behavior to his father seemed odd. But there will be more on the families and such in a different post. Hard not to overlap the topics, but if I wrote it all in one, I’d forget things even more than I do already, and it would be way too long even b y my standards.

Update:
I realized later that the song used during the end rebellion is a big tie-in to the idea that the teachers are lousy and the rebellion has been simmering as a result. It’s the major song included that’s not by the Bee Gees: Teach Your Children by CSNY. I always loved that song. Looking at Wikipedia, it gets better, given the homemade grenade used at the end:

Nash, who is also a photographer and collector of photographs, has stated in an interview that the immediate inspiration for the song came from a famous photograph by Diane Arbus, “Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park.”

 

Backpacks

I was thinking about backpacks just the other day. My three kids all had to have them to start kindergarten. It’s required. I already knew that they were pretty much ubiquitous these days, but…

I was in school until 1979, and never once had a backpack. Not even in high school. Nor did other people, at least not enough for me to notice. Books and such were carried in your arms. It was awkward, inconvenient, even sometimes painful, but at least during school there were lockers, and generally not everything had to come home overnight. Yet I am no sure how we managed without them.

College was different. While I didn’t start college until 1982, they’d long been a given in that environment. I may not have known that until contemporaries started college in 1978 and 1979, but by the time it was my turn, I knew to head to the store and spend $30 (in 1982 dollars! For one far less good than my kids have for much less!) in anticipation of the backbreaking load of books I would have to cart around.

Funny how that works, seeing the same topic addressed right after I’ve pondered it myself.

Teaching a Four Year Old Relativity

This is funny.

I must say, I did a bit better teaching a bit of cosmology to a rapt seven year old, when she asked about the edge of space. Better still with the entire history of the causes and results of the Civil War, slavery and the civil rights movement in about ten minutes or so of lecture mode, prompted by a question on it by the six year old, who then left while I discussed it with the seven year old. Also did a pretty good job of explaining what money and value are, though that’s an ongoing lesson.

Party Time

Took the five year old to a classmate’s birthday party at a skating rink/fun center today. He’d certainly never been skating, and I’d not gone since I was a kid. My father skated all the time, and we’d go with him sometimes. For him it even went as far as roller skating dance competitions. There were rinks everywhere, then. Along the line, most of them disappeared. Was it because of the advent of rollerblades? Anyway…

We walked in and he went all shy, and was taken aback by the blaring music. Which was, in my opinion, a fair bit too loud, and nothing I’d have chosen to listen to myself. He refused to try skating, which would have been easy because they had nifty 3-wheeled supports for kids to use while learning. Plus almost everyone skating was around his age. He turned 5 in August, young for his kindergarten class, while the girl whose birthday it was turned 6 this week, old for her class. Not many were older kids.

He hid behind me when the classmate’s dad introduced himself. We spent most of the time there sitting in one spot at a table, where he ate fries, since he still can’t (as far as we know, and at any rate won’t) eat pizza (dairy allergy in the process of fading), which was what was being served. Everyone else went back to skating or the arcade. He kept eating fries and refusing to try skating. He refused to sit at the table with the other kids for the food. He then refused to sit at the table with the other kids to sing happy birthday and have cake. He refused to try the cake, except a tiny taste of frosting from my piece.

Eventually, not that long before the end, when few people were in the arcade, he was willing to go try games. Turned out a lot of them were broken or had issues. Air hockey lacked pucks. Ms. Pac Man had a screen too dim to see. The claw crane for stuffed animals game didn’t work right, in the form of running for a matter of a couple seconds and only moving side to side, not back to front. He had the most fun riding a little 4-horse carousel.

They were announcing the end of the party, having people turn in their free skates, and after that, when it was time to leave, he points at the rink, wanting to try that. Doh! I told him it was time to leave, that we weren’t going to pay to rent skates now, and he should have gotten comfortable sooner. I suspect it helped that there were just two people skating at that point.

I’m not sure even his shy and overly emotional older sister, the middle child and 6 year old, has exhibited that much shyness. She’d have sat with the other kids and maybe even been forward with them. Or at least she’d have gotten past it sooner. Oh well. And he’s so charming! Other kids seem crazy about him. Much like me at the same age, when I was possibly just as shy, unless I was in the right element. I lost the charming more than the shyness. Though I managed to charm the nurses in the hospital a couple weeks ago, which made me think that if I’d had that in me when I was younger and it mattered, I’d be talking about the antics of adult children and even grandchildren now, not children in kindergarten, first and second grades.

I Love My Kids

And I am not “a mom,” but I can totally understand this (up to the point I’ve read, but I know I’m gonna link it when I’m done, and I don’t have time to read the rest now, so why not bookmark it here for myself now… and for our many readers… oh wait). My oldest was not unwanted, but sure wasn’t wanted YET. She’s still impatient. Having kids is a huge opportunity cost, even more than a cash cost. It doesn’t help when we have a society that encourages helicopterism, and wants kids bundled in proverbial bubble wrap lest there be risk or the taking of chances. The environmentalists want nobody to drive an SUV or large car. The for-the-childrenists force us to swaddle them in child seats ad nauseum, requiring an SUV or large car if you dare be fertile. It’s crazy.

Speaking of the Bus Stop

The three kids are in consecutive grades, with the youngest now in kindergarten For the prior two years, the only people designated for the bus stop on this street were in this building, so we were able to get the bus immediately across the street. That was handy for being able to wait on the porch in weather, and for not having to walk any distance or be out sooner rather than later. It was a bit surprising to hit this year and discover that there were 5-6 other kindergarten kids on our street and around the corner.

Anyway,on top of what she said, there is also the matter of smoking. These parents who are so apparently helicoptery to their precious little kindergarteners (and older siblings), walking them right to the bus door for a long good-bye (and panicking because the older ones have to walk the half mile to the elementary school… can’t have free range kid practice in this dreadfully dangerous semi-rural town donchaknow), most of them smoke. Around their kids and around other people. At the bus stop. I found myself trying not to cough from it yesterday and thinking that I’d be an asshole to complain, because I hate to be That Person. It’s outdoors, after all. At the same time, my heart sank, imagining this Alll Year Long.

At least it’s transient, not like having someone on the first floor smoking all winter when the first and second floor apartments irreparably share air space. Still… Ugh.