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Michael Picarella: The Godmother of the park

Picarella Family Report

Posted: March 20, 2009 10:19 p.m.
Updated: March 21, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
As far back as I can remember, I never saw anything as odd and revealing as what I saw the other day at the park, a bunch of parents lining up to kiss a woman's hand.

She entered the park from a back entrance I didn't know existed. She knew everyone. And everyone knew her or wanted to know her. She arrived, and the place went wild.

My 5-year-old son and I arrived, and nobody could care less. We didn't exist, which was fine. I wanted to spend time with my son, not with strangers. We like to play basketball, but the court was full and nobody wanted to leave. This woman shows up with her two kids-who every other kid wanted to play with-and all of a sudden the court opens for them.

"Excuse me," I said to this woman. "We were waiting to play next."

Have you ever heard a park full of noisy kids go instantly silent? Let me tell you. It's an abstract experience. All eyes looked at me as if it'd be for the last time.

"We haven't met," this woman said to me.

"I'm Mike," I said.

"I'm a friend. You can ask around about me. If you could just allow me this once to cut in front of you on the court, I know how to return a favor."

I told this woman to go ahead, said my son and I would play another game. She hugged me.

"Michael, how would your son like to ride that scooter over there?" she asked, pointing to one of the scooters parked at the bike rack.

"No, thanks," I said.

She called to a lady sitting on a park bench. "Jenny, Michael's son is gonna use Joey's scooter. OK?"

Jenny said it was certainly OK, and, before I could turn down the offer a second time (I didn't want to be indebted to this woman), my son jumped on the thing and rode off down the sidewalk.

"Don't go far," I told my boy.

"It's OK," this woman said. "Nobody's gonna hurt him here."

Who was this woman?

"Michael, what street do you live on?" this woman asked. She was pushy. And nobody pushed me around. Nobody. Except for maybe my wife and my parents and my old teachers - no strangers pushed me around anyway.

So I told this woman I was going to find my son. He'd gone too far. This woman held me back and sent a couple kids instead to get my boy. What nerve. When my kid returned, the woman asked him if he wanted to take the scooter home for a couple days.

My son flipped. I turned down the offer. My boy and I went to the slides. And then everyone at the park fell silent again. Maybe I should've accepted this woman's kindness. After all, I had no beef against someone trying to be a friend. But what kind of friend?

She's the type that, once you're in, there's no getting out. You follow me?

She was offended, and gave me the evil eye the whole time my son and I played. I felt guilty.

Two moms approached me.

"Would your son like a bag of fruit snacks?" one of the moms asked. Before I could turn down the offer, my son had helped himself.

"Sure, go ahead," I said to my son.

The mom added, "She'd like you to join us at the picnic tables."

"I'm playing with my son," I said. "I'm here for him."

The two moms couldn't believe my response, as if I'd refused Don Vito Corleone. "She's gonna be disappointed, but I'll tell her what you said."

After the message was delivered, this woman-the Godmother of the park-collected her kids and left. Then the parents lined up to kiss my hand. I think there was a transfer of power, power I didn't want. I told my son to gather his things. He went for the scooter.

"No, son," I said. "Leave the scooter. Take the fruit snacks." We left and never returned.

Michael Picarella is a Valencia resident and a proud husband and father. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. To contact Picarella or to read more stories, go to www.michaelpicarellacolumn.blogspot.com.

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