I am going to be careful with this blog and only go as far as C.S. Lewis went. I do not enjoy the company of small children. I also don’t expect to have them alongside me constantly at an Ayurvedic Retreat, right? Wrong, this is India.
The Indians love their children which is doubtlessly a sign of health whilst I have none (children) and, if pressed, might choose to lunch with a teenager.
I like teenagers because something has happened to them. They are beyond being a child. They like their parents or they don’t like their parents. It is true they are often a bit obnoxious and sulky and you have to field that. Underneath it all though I think they appreciate an adult who will tell them when it is enough, when to call it a day. I am a day-caller.
I am not saying they listen to me but something real is passed. I remember being a teenager as well. It is amazing that so many of us survive it.
The child in the room next door to me is either Austrian or German and is adapted to the hilt. Her parents seem nice enough but for me she is shrill and doesn't stop talking.
Essie is 7 years old which I realise is way too early to damn someone - yet. I might like her in 8 years time although this is hard to imagine at present.
We don't make eye contact and I have to watch myself. She is, after all, only a kid. I can't go to war with her. Not really.
I know I was once a child also and for my own child I have nothing but tenderness in my heart. My own child body is remote though - her emotions are what I catch - I can't really remember being my young self physically.
There are two children here at the moment and it is the manager's child that I like. She is deeply Indian. Manna does this delicious head wobble with no answer when an adult in charge suggests something she deems all right. She also sings English songs to me in my doorway.
Manna does plays loud football out front with her father but somehow with her I don't mind. She is 4 years old - nearly 5 - and perhaps the reason Manna and I work is that a host of people care for her. Manna lives at the other end of this house (palace really) and thus is on the premises but out of sight. When she does come to knock on my bedroom door I am happy to see her.
On the other hand the child next door, Essie, might as well be in the room with me.
Doubtlessly this is a therapy issue to be tackled on my part but at 53-years old (my age) it may or may not get an inning. I won't actually bring it to therapy as long as I maintain a sense of what is wrong and right. You don't kick annoying animals down the stairs (see one blog back, ref. barking dog) and you don't mistreat children.
Essie's parents speak behind our shared wall in a murmur and Essie is a high-pitched, shrill, chatterbox of a kid. I do not understand why neuro-linguistic programming isn't in evidence. Essie's parents - demure, demure - and then Essie like a single piano note - ring-ting-tinging. Tuneless also.
All this happening way past 11 pm with midnight in sight. Last night I finally went into the hallway, cleared my already clear throat and banged my own bedroom door in a way that was wholly uncharacteristic.
Some people require the most crude form of communication.
One week earlier I had politely intercepted the father - I know him slightly from before - and first I had complimented him on the exuberance of his daughter. Then I asked please - without sarcasm - if he could tone her down after 10 pm.
After 10 pm we are all supposed to be sleeping - Ayurvedically. Anyway, with Essie ring-ting-tinging that activity was off the cards. What I am actually doing after 10 pm is circling my novel. I am taking every written down heart-felt excerpt that I have been carrying for years and I am using them artfully to fill in the holes.
It is beautiful work but it is slow and for me it requires nerve.
So Essie and I are thrown together at this juncture in both our lives. I might meet her in 8 years time and think she is lovely. She may remember me as the unfriendly lady at Chamundi who stayed in her room the whole time. None of our stories are ever really true but we believe them.
Last night when Essie finally lay down and let the natural world around her settle, peace came effortlessly in. I allowed myself one whispered stream of expletives.
Bleep 7 years olds should not be allowed to Bleep Bleep chatter until all the adults around them are half-dead.
I then had a more physical release involving sighing and arm waving. Finally, one last critical arrow sent over the fence. How would her parents feel if they went somewhere for relaxation? Surely anyone with some civic-mindedness, half a brain? After that I got into my bed and emptied.
That's when the idea of blogging about Essie and my reaction to her came in. Why not? Essie and her parents will be gone in 4 days time - returning to the Austria or Germany from whence they came - and, of course, Essie is not her real name.
Then before I fell asleep I was thinking about the games of hide and seek we used to play as kids. I can't exactly remember the physicality of them but I can capture the feeling. We played at night on our street and it is one of the few memories my sister and I have of childhood that in the re-telling sounds the same. Much of what else I remember my sister doesn't know and vice versa.
Hide and seek we agree on and that it was wild and formative we agree as well. If I bring an excitement into my teaching and am able to hold the energy of a highly-charged group some of that skill set was formed during those long summers. We played late into the night for years.
Our street in Toronto was tree-lined and so even with street-lighting it was dark. We also played with older kids. All these variants factored in to make it memorable. I do remember screaming - that's what hide and seekers did. In the beginning when the person who was 'it' was counting you only had until 100 to get out of sight and run.
Once in the middle of our deciding whom next to be 'it', somebody's mother came clicking over. There would have been a clicking because she was a mother who wore heels. It was a bit of a shock as we had forgotten that something as show-stopping as parents existed. I forget her name completely but I remember the feeling of her. Her children weren't there that day. The feeling of her even as she approached was rich and irritated.
My name at the time was Jean. I changed it to Jeannie when I flew the coop.
Rich and Irritated spotted me and came spittle-close in the dark.
'Jean! You have to stop that screaming. It's all I can hear.'
I had no idea I was disturbing anyone. It was like a visitation from another world. I felt instantly chilled. It should be added that feeling chilled was the base note of my childhood.
I guess Rich and Irritated turned on her heels then and clicked off. Probably an older boy or two said something suggestive. I didn't understand anything that was going on at that time. I would have been upset but hiding it.
Other kids screamed also, why pick on me? But it was the largeness of my energy field and a kind of tail wind that would take me decades to master. None of it was my fault. I was a small kid with a big scream and I was carrying a lot of waste for other people.
Probably Essie has no idea as well but I won't be the only person she irritates in this life. There will be others, and she'll figure out her part in it or she won't. Maybe I should be more sympathetic as surely I would have wanted sympathy for my own kid. I didn't mean to hurt anyone with my screaming. We were all just flying high and triumphant with it, waiting for the game to begin.
I remember Rich and Irritated's name now. It has suddenly come in.
Mrs. Small, God bless her.