I hear them coming long before they pound on my door; hear them in the quarreling voices growing louder and the feet running.
I turn the music off and there’s bread needing my attention now and I’m trying to fit too much into too little time.
“Wanna buy a raffle ticket?” the oldest boy asks me, ripping a string of tickets from the little boy’s hand. The little one starts screaming. There’s dirt and snot smeared across his face.
I tell the older boy to give the tickets back to his brother. They’ve been on my porch for 30-seconds and have received more guidance from me than they do from their mother all afternoon long in their own back yard.
His mother runs a daycare out of the house next door.
I wonder again if I should call someone.
They’re selling raffle tickets to raise money for their grandmother, who has cancer. I learn most of this from a paper one of the girls pushes forward. I could win a Steelers basket.Tickets are $5 each, and I pass.
I’m not confident that the money goes where they say it does, I don’t know the woman in question, and I bought lemonade last summer from their little table.
$5 is a little steep for neighborly relations.
The children run across my yard, to the next house. I go back to kneading bread.
It’s hard, sometimes, to know what to do. When they first moved in, they let the three-year-old play up and down the street, and I winced whenever a car drove past. Mostly he played in the street, except when another neighbor or I stepped out and scolded.
Lately they’ve all been playing in their own yard; and the 11-year-old on the other side told me someone called the police.
That seems extreme. Somewhat neglected, yes. To the point of calling authorities? Well, no.
Now she runs a daycare, and I cringe whenever I see the sign in the front windows. I have thought often of calling whoever licenses daycare facilities, reporting the way the children play so unsupervised all day, how if she can’t keep up with her own four, she certainly shouldn’t be taking on others.
I haven’t called because it’s fairly obvious. Any parent who does due diligence will be able to see what I can: that her children are fed, and mostly clothed, and mostly left to care for themselves all the long afternoons; and that any other child will likely be treated the same way.
I don’t pick up the phone because I think it will hurt more than it will help. And all afternoon their quarreling irritates me, and my young informant tells me the older one threw a rock at our house, and the father drives a truck that could wake the dead.
But under the dirt and the tempers are children’s faces, and I know they need care as much as I wish they had it.
It’s a cycle, I think, that’s probably been going on for a long time.