Last night as I stood on the brink of physical confrontation for the first time in more years than I can count, I thought of Mother's Day. Well, not at first. The first things that went through my head were more along the lines of "How am I going to deal with two or three of these stubby little baggy-jeaned miscreants?" or "I wonder if I should put down my camera first?"
For the past week or so, there has been an ugly surge in the vandalism in our neighborhood. A few days ago when I was out running, there was a group of three or four teenagers painting the wall of the underpass up the street from my house. My initial notion was that these kids must be part of some graffiti abatement program, and they were spraying some sort of cleaning solution on the tags that were already there. Surely they wouldn't be brazen enough to stand there in the light of day in front of passing traffic, defacing public property.
I was wrong. They were. Yesterday morning I saw the angry red scrawl on the fence across the street from us. I felt relief that our fence has slats and doesn't offer a smooth surface to leave a mark. Unless they decided to leave their spray cans behind and start breaking things. Later, when we were leaving the neighborhood for the evening, the same group of lumpy numbskulls were making their way down the street, again in broad daylight, spraying sidewalks, trees - anything that would hold still while they left their mark. I had my camera with me, and chose to roll down the window and take a few photos of the delinquents. "What're you taking pictures of?" hollered the one who seemed capable of speech.
Then they yammered something else before they got me in my weak spot. They threw a couple of empty cans at our car. With my wife and kid in the car, the red light went off in my lizard brain. I was halfway out of the door before I told my wife to stop the car. Before I knew it, I was standing face to face with the tiny-brained children who had been messing up my street. I was livid. I let them know it. Then it occurred to me that I was looking over the heads of both of my main antagonists. They puffed up their chests, in a way that I am quite familiar from my days on elementary school yard duty. They wouldn't back down. "We was just writing (some garbledygook) on the sidewalk. What's your problem?"
This morning, upon reflection, I have the answer: My problem is Mother's Day. No mother needs to know that their child is capable of such behavior. All those young toughs have mothers. Whether they are aware of how their kids spend their afternoons and evenings is a mystery. Confronted with the proof of their deeds, would they do anything differently?Would they pat their sons on the head and say "boys will be boys?" Are these same young men getting up early to make breakfast for their mothers, or bringing them a bouquet from the stand on the corner in front of the gas station? Or would they give mom a day off from the macho territorial posing that they show the rest of the world? Perhaps they got a nice big can of red gloss enamel and etched a great big heart on the front door of their apartment.