Sometimes I think my son London was serially robbed in a past life. Unlike his sister Poppy who, at age 4, would have given away half her possessions to her worst enemy, London guards all his gear like Montgomery Burns on his deathbed.
If I ask London if he wants to invite a playmate from his playgroup over to our playhouse, he’ll wrinkle his nose like he just smelled a fart and spit, “Damn babies. They’ll just come over and steal my trains.” Then he’ll gather up whichever locomotives are within reach and scramble for a decent hiding place.
On London’s birthday in May, we went to the newly renovated Cowgirl’s Kiddie Corral for dinner. The Corral was quite active, and Poppy spotted an old friend she knew and gathered the other kids spazzing on the Astroturf to play some sort of game that involved running, tagging and the hurling of plastic stools in the shape of milk jugs. We had just given London a pair of inexpensive toy cars so he had something to open on his actual birthday (we had held a joint party for Poppy and London a week prior). Before London joined the fray, he wondered what to do with the red and yellow cast metal vehicles. He spied me, the exhausted and otherwise immobile father, lounging in a plastic chair.
“Dad,” he whispered. “Hold these. Don’t let anyone take them.” Then he was off, running along the same dog track as the rest of the kiddos. About three laps later, London exited the course and came to check on his gifts. I held them in my open palms so he could inspect each sports car for scratches or unnecessary wear-and-tear. A tow-headed boy, just over a year old, noticed London’s frequent breaks from the game and padded over to see what could rip an older kid away from their collective hijinks. We soon learned from the boy’s parents who shared our table that the toddler was named Cameron, and he was the product of a British father and American mother. This parental combination impacted his speech so that he had the accent of a soccer hooligan with the garbled syntax of one of our own.
“Car. Want. Izzz,” Cameron said, standing behind London.
“Don’t let him take them, Dad.” London pushed the items deeper into my palms then closed my fists around them.
“Why don’t you show them to him?” I suggested. “I’m sure he just wants to look.”
“No way. He’ll steal them and then I won’t have any.”
I tried to cajole our new friend into telling my mini-miser that he would give them back but if Cameron had such benevolent inclinations, they were lost in translation.
“Car. Want. Mine. Irgg,” he said before both lads went looking for pails of milk to toss.
Within minutes, Cameron ditched London, wandered back to me and began monosyllabic negotiations for the release of the toy autos. I explained in my best PC parentspeak that London’s inner infant wasn’t comfortable sharing right now.
The ambling Ameribrit wouldn’t give up, repeating his terms over and over. London spied our conversation from atop the play structure and raced toward our table. However, just before he reached us, he slowed down, shoved his hands in his pockets and adopted the cool gait of one of The Bowery Boys. He rocked on his heels and glanced sideways at his new nemesis. “What are you doing over here, Camera?” he asked coyly.
“Car. Want. Yes. Brzzz,” Cameron answered flatly, never clouding his intentions.
London turned to face the outlaw, formalizing this little shaver showdown in the Kiddie Corral. Neither cowboy was armed with Colt or crayon, yet I still expected one of them to yell “draw” at any moment. Instead, London, who has never been a fan of conflict, decided to act in true Wilder form.
“Poppy, come on! We’re leaving,” he yelled to his sister.
Then he turned to me, his palm out. “Dad, hand over my cars. It’s time for us to go.”
Reproduced with permission granted by Santa fe Reporter.