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Friday, July 30, 2010

My night out with a 6-year old, whom I found Uptown

Posted By on Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 2:33 PM

On Wednesday night, I left the Paul McCartney concert early to make it to the new CL soft launch party at Snug Harbor. While walking from the arena to my condo’s parking garage, I passed the EpiCentre where I saw a little kid with dread locks sitting on the wall along Trade Street by himself.

I looked at my phone (that I substitute for a watch) and saw that it was 10:45 p.m. Now, I may not be a mother, but I know that this was way past his bedtime. And that made my motherly instincts, or education degree and experience teaching elementary ed at at-risk schools rather, kick in.

So, I walked over to him and said, “Hey there. What are you doing out here so late all by yourself sweetie?”

He responded by just shrugging his shoulders.

“Are you waiting for somebody?”

In a slight whisper so quiet I had to sit down next to him and lean into him to hear, he responded, “My brothers.”

“Your brothers, where’d they go?”

He shrugged again. He didn’t know that either apparently.

“How long you been out here?”

Shrug.

“Are they coming back soon?”

Shrug.

I didn’t want to just leave him there … so I started making friends with the little fellow.

“How old are you?”

He held up six fingers.

“Where do you live?”

Shrug.

I didn’t really know how to have a conversation with an anti-social 6-year old I’d just found on the street, so, fortunately, he broke the ice …

“I’m hungry.”

I looked down at him. He had on dirty jeans, his bony clavicle protruding from the collar of his dirty white T-shirt under a tattered flannel, and his feet looked like they wanted to pop out of his shoes he’d clearly worn out and grown out of. Even though I already assumed the answer I asked, “Did you eat dinner?”

He nodded no.

“When’s the last time you ate?”

Another shrug.

Fearing his brothers who abandoned him there would come back and not know where he'd went, I stood up anyway and reached out my hand to him. “Come with me, let’s go eat. You like pizza?”

He jumped up and grabbed my hand like I'd just invited him on a G-5 to fly down to Disney World, and we walked over to Librettos hand in hand. He asked for four pieces of pepperoni pizza and a soda — and that tiny little body of a boy proceeded to scarf down three-and-a-half massive pieces of pizza without pausing to say a word or take a sip of his water (I wasn’t going to let him have a soda that late at night!) ... but I did think he deserved some dessert. We walked over to CVS where I bought him some silly bands, a Vitamin Water that I convinced him was water-soda, some gummy worms and some chips for later.

Preoccupied with his gummy worms, I walked over to the cops standing at the top of the stairs at the EpiCentre and asked what I was supposed to do with him. I wanted to just take him home and get him bathed and buy him some shoes that fit. I found myself having thoughts of a woman who just found out she's pregnant... what kind of mom am I going to be? But this was a human, not a stray dog, and I am pretty sure I can’t just adopt a potentially homeless child by saying finders-keepers … that’d probably be seen more as kidnapping than rescuing, I’d imagine. I probably wouldn't even pass the government standards for being a foster parent at this point in my life.

The cops said to leave him with them and they’d keep an eye out for his brothers and make sure he gets home safe - or is picked up by child care services. And like I always do when they tell me to do something, I listened to the cops.

I called yesterday and today to check on him, but nobody has anything to report. So, I'll take no news as good news... I'll pretend his irresponsible older brother came back, he got on the right bus home and he's going school shopping next week. But I know that I’ll always wonder if he's doing okay ... and if I did the right thing.

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