One day last week I was driving home in the afternoon. Maybe lateish afternoon. There was a bunch of boys from one of the local middle schools on the sidewalk near my building. As the car in front of me passed by them, one of the boys threw something at the car. It missed and as soon as it was thrown they all ran. So when I went past them they were not ready for another go. They were still scattered and regrouping. One may have been taking a video on his phone.
Our kitchen window looks out on the corner where the boys were. When I got inside I could hear them so I looked out, they had crossed the street and when another car passed, the same boy threw something again, and this time, he hit it, the passing car. The kids scattered. And the car, it stopped. And it turned around. And it followed about half of the boys in the group who were lurking in the entranceway of the building across the street from me. The car pulled into the parking lot and an older Japanese couple got out. I saw them go over and talk to the boys. And shortly after that, the police showed up.
I wondered what I would have done if the kids had hit my car. I wondered what my significant other would have done if he was with me and the kids had hit my car. I would have wanted to call the police too but I don’t know that I would have. I’m not sure what I would have done.
I can’t lie. I spied on what was going on through the kitchen window. It looked like the police officer was having the boys call home and then he was taking the phone and talking to who answered. I wondered if I had a responsibility to go outside as a witness. But I didn’t go outside. I thought that these boys were the same age as my kid and I wondered if he would have the foresight to leave the group of his friends if they were doing something similar. Something that he was not actually doing himself but seemingly condoning by not leaving. I thought about how horrified and disappointed I would be in my son if I got a call like that. How punished he would be. For so long.
I talked to him about it. He laughed it off. He told me that he wouldn’t do something like that. And while I believe that he thinks that. I think in the moment, it’s not that simple. Or that easy.
We were in NY over the summer visiting my family. We had gone into the town closest to my mom’s house. There is a shop with a lot of interesting locally made items. One artist mounts the bones of small animals in frames and places them in teeny glass jars on chains. My son found a display of fancy locally made soaps ($5 apiece). He decided to buy one for himself. He dutifully smelled them all. And the one he chose was patchouli. And he really loves it. I actually bought us some more patchouli bath soap online since his pricey bar was almost done. And today, I remembered, that back in the day, I used to wear patchouli oil and it was likely when he was very small or maybe even when I was pregnant with him. And this morning, I wondered if maybe in his subconscious mind, he remembered that smell. Smells seem to solicit strong memory. Maybe that is why he chose it. I would like to think that is the case. It is a nice story.
So hopefully, as parents we are teaching him what to do. The right thing to do. Even if it is not easy. Even if he is the only one. I can only hope that the strength of that is as strong as the memory of that smell. As strong as the patchouli. That crazy subconscious influence. Maybe I will just call it patchouli from now on.