|© 1990, bardsmaid
AUTHOR'S NOTES: A child's perspective is often
just as enlightening--and amusing--as any piece
We pull up in front of the babysitter's house and Steve hops right out to help Victor out of the car. He must be an only child, Victor. He is very pale and skinny, tentative and fragile, something my brood cannot afford to be with so many of them to push each other around. It is a major accomplishment for Victor to climb in and out of the rear seat of my car, like scaling Mount Everest. He moves very slowly, but finally he is out and I see Steve leading him across the lawn toward the door, Steve moving in hefty bounds, Victor following slowly, his pants a size too big for his little body and not moving at quite the same time as the rest of him.
Steve is ringing the doorbell, and after a minute a woman's smiling face appears and a welcoming hand ushers Victor inside. I can see her thanking Steve. Then the door closes and Steve is running back to the car, running fast. The door swings open. He looks as if he has seen something gruesome, like a frog squished on the road.
"She called me sweetie!"
He says it again, holding on to the horror of it, unbelieving. I try to explain to him that it is just something people say, a name they use without thinking, the way some people say "honey" or "love". He is not convinced and says it again with disgust: "She called me sweetie."
The others are not helping. Aaron is echoing "sweetie" from the back seat, laughing, and Paul has started to repeat it over and over to himself, slowly, savoring every sound. Even Bennie is saying it now.
The next day it starts as soon as they realize that we have passed our usual turnoff at O Street. Paul vocalizes it first.
"Mom, are we taking Victor to Mrs. Sweetie's?" I am not sure how he can wring such full and meticulous sound from the word--it must be one of his special gifts--and he echoes it aloud to himself, Mrs. Sweetie, Mrs. Sweetie, as if gawking at some fascinating atrocity.
We stop and Aaron gets out this time to help Victor from the car. He is more cautious than Steve, and anyway, he has been forewarned. He herds Victor up to the front door, pushes the doorbell quickly, then poises at the edge of the walk like a sprinter at the starting line, waiting for the door to open. When it does, he bolts off toward us and pulls up grinning as he reaches the safety of the car.
"Did she say it? Did she say it?" they all clamor.
"Nope," Aaron answers, triumphant.
But he looks just a bit disappointed