I get to hang out in the park each week with my friend’s son. I started watching him once a week when he was six months old, the age I was when I was adopted and came to the United States. I remember thinking, “Wow, so much has already happened in his l life. His parents have already formed routines and a family culture that he’ll continue to grow into.” I wondered about my own life before I turned six months, there’s nobody around who has those stories to share with me. No memories, no pics, it’s as if it never happened.
My friend’s son is nearly 14 months now. When we go to the park, he points to trucks and makes a growling sound. It’s pretty spot on to the gritty jangle that the truck actually makes. He points to dogs and says, “Arf, arf.” It’s pretty spot on too. If he becomes an actor who specializes in impressions, I’ll feel lucky to have witnessed his early work.
We were in the park together recently and met up with my husband’s aunt and her Samoyed, Murphy. Standing on the side of one of the paths in the park, we chatted as another woman approached with two dogs—one on leash, the other she pushed in a stroller made for dogs. Murphy got excited and bolted toward the woman and her dogs. The woman immediately started screaming a scream that was filled with terror. It took me by surprise because Murphy looks like a giant cotton ball and was bouncing toward her in what I perceived as a curious and playful manner.
“Get your dog! Get your dog!” cried the woman. My husband’s aunt gathered Murphy, who took the opportunity to get in a quick game of tag before her leash was regained. The woman raged, “It’s people like you, who are too busy talking…” her rant disintegrated into disjointed words. My husband’s aunt apologized, I don’t think the woman heard her. Or maybe she refused to.
I glanced down at my friend’s son in his stroller, to see if he was picking up any of the tension that was exploding before our eyes. He was watching the woman, but didn’t seem disturbed. It’s as if he was filing away the encounter into his brain as just another example of what can happen in the park.
I thought about what the woman said, “It’s people like you…” I wonder, does she actually believe a whole group of people can be reduced to a single characteristic? Does she HATE people who use parks to meet up and talk? Maybe so, but I wonder if more than the talking, if it’s the not seeing her coming that really sets her off. I get that. Invisibility sucks. It feels shitty and when internalized, can really screw with your sense of self.
I wonder if that woman moves through the world that edgy all the time, or if she was just having a bad day. The thought occurred to me, that the terror and anger and spite she poured on us, were passed on from stories she’d read or watched in the media. Brain plasticity is real and just as using the internet rewires our brains, so can repeated exposure to the xenophobic rantings of Trump. It seems like it’s becoming more difficult, but still possible, to have hope. Hope that the world my friend’s son and his generation will inherit, will be one that those who came before him, didn’t completely ruin. Or maybe at some point, nobody will be around to tell the stories of humans on Earth. No memories, no pics.