There was no school today (teachers had PD) and for the first time in I can't remember how long, I had no obligations aside from hanging out with my kids. No rehearsals, no lessons, no papers to edit. Sure, there is music to practice (always, always), but this week I've hit a point where I feel more or less caught up with the music I've got. (This could mean one of two things: I need more work, or I've somehow developed such superb time management skills that the end of the semester isn't making me as nuts as everyone else. Alas, I think it's more the former.)

We had a very low key morning, then took Stuart out for a long lunch, and then, because today is the first warm, sunny day we've had since, oh, last September, we spent the afternoon at the park. Several friends from school showed up, along with what seemed like half the neighborhood. I swear in over a decade living in this neighborhood I've never seen so many people at the park at one time. I guess a day off and some sunshine brings us all out of hibernation.

The afternoon was not without drama. I think fourth grade is the new adolescence. As I watch my son's social relationships develop and evolve, I try to remember what it was like when I was 10 years old and trying to decipher the hierarchy among my peers. It wasn't easy, I can tell you that much, and I spent most of my years of late elementary school and early adolescence feeling left out and isolated. Daniel is certainly more socially adept than I ever was, but he is still sensitive and vulnerable and I wonder sometimes how he feels about fitting in.

But then, most people feel like they don't fit in, right? It's just that some are better at hiding it than others.

So there we are at the park, Anya is wandering around with her friend, Daniel has gone home already because he's hot and tired, and I'm chatting with the other moms, and a couple of police cars pull up. At first, my friend is worried and thinks maybe she parked illegally, but no, the cops don't seem concerned with her car at all. Plus, there are two of them - definitely overkill for a parking violation. A few minutes later, another car pulls up and a woman gets out with a little kid, and chats a while with the police officers. Those of us clustered at the "mom bench" wonder what's going on and try not to stare. There isn't any evidence of anything that would warrant a call to the police (no traffic accident, no shifty teenagers!), though we can't help but notice an older couple loitering in the picnic shelter; they are watching the police very carefully, and even have a phone out to take pictures, plus they have a wagon full of toys and snacks but no children with them. Eventually, another man approaches the woman with her kid and the cops. She hands over the kid, he starts to walk away, and then she charges at him and tries to grab the kid back. In a flash, the policemen pull her back, yell at her to stop and step back and seconds later she's in handcuffs. The kid is screaming as he is carried away by the man who by now we all presume is his father.

Of course by this time we have given up any pretense of not noticing. It's full-on gawking. There are over a dozen people on the playground, all staring up the hill and wondering what had just happened. Of the moms grouped by the bench, our best guess is a contentious hand-over of custody, thus the police  presence and public space.

We took a moment, all of us, and shook our heads and wondered what will happen to that mother, what will happen to that child, what must it be like to be a police officer in that situation.  What is it like to see families in distress on a daily basis? Sure, each family has its problems (what's the Anna Karenina quote? Every happy family is the same, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way...or something like that) but of all of us huddled awkwardly around the park bench this afternoon, witnesses to this scene of what must be a profoundly dysfunctional family situation, we're all ok. Our kids are all ok. Even when things at school are not ok, their homes are safe and loving and supportive. At the very least, the police are not involved in our family lives.

Sometimes it's hard living among humans.  Sometimes I want to go build a yurt in the boonies and live there with my family (and decent wifi) and just forget the rest of the world and the awful things people do to each other.


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