They rode their bikes there. Which they often do, because although it's dangerous to ride around our neighborhood - what with undulating sidewalks and driveways spaced every 10 feet - there is a nice path, about six feet wide, that goes the entire way around our park where the kids can practice their cycling skills.
Typical for a midweek morning, when we arrived, the park was nearly empty.
We played for a while on the playground. We ran around and took turns throwing a football. We took a drink of water from the water fountain and then, we started to make our way home.
Everyone was happy. Including me. I was chipper, almost.
Because we were on the far side of the park, we needed to wind around the pathway back to the entrance. I had already started to walk - and push Henry who was in the stroller - and the kids were riding behind me, in a single file line.
As we were walking out of the park, and I was glancing over my shoulder every so often to make sure that my little riders were all OK, I happened to notice that there was a 50'ish year old man running, almost sprinting, around the path. He was wearing headphones and looked like he was in pretty good shape. Which was obvious to me, because he wasn't wearing a shirt.
So he's running towards us - and I'm looking back at the kids to make sure that they are in single file line, out of his way, and not hogging up the pathway.
They are riding perfectly.
In a nice neat row, just to the right of center.
There is plenty of room for Mr. No Shirt to run by.
But as he runs past my three little children on their training-wheeled-bicycles, he holds his hand down, like he is swatting at a fly, and yells out, "GET OUT OF THE WAY!"
Then to my next child he swats and yells, "PAY ATTENTION!"
Then to the third child he swatted and yelled something, I don't know what, because at this point William caught up to me and said, "Mommy, that man was mean to me!" and the blood was boiling so loudly in my ears all I could hear was a low thunder beginning to rumble.
I stopped in my tracks and stood there for a moment, watching the guy running and thinking, hoping - praying - he didn't pass us again. Because if he did and if he said ONE WORD to my children, or attempted to SWAT at them again ... he might die.
At the hands of me.
So we keep walking. And already I'm talking out loud, rehearsing what I am going to say if Mr. No Shirt passes us again. The kids are looking at me, a little scared, because they can tell that I'm very angry and yet, they have no idea why.
I tell the kids to go ahead of me, because if he passes us and if he swats at them or so much OPENS HIS MOUTH, I am going to pounce like a ravenous bear on a fat seal.
We are only about 100 yards from the exit of the park, but just then, I see Mr. No Shirt is barreling down on our side of the path. I shout that the kids need to stay in a single file line and to the far RIGHT so he can pass on the left. The kids know exactly what this mean and they oblige. They scoot to the far side so Mr. No Shirt has ample room to run past.
But guess what
HE SWATTED AT MY KIDS AGAIN.
He put his hand down and shooed at them, while loudly growling, "PAY ATTENTION!" and "STAY OUT OF THE WAY!"
And guess what I did?
I whipped off my sunglasses and yelled, "HEY! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?! DID YOU NOT SEE THE SIGN OVER THERE THAT READS THIS IS A PUBLIC PARK?! HOW DARE YOU SWAT AT MY CHILDREN!"
Mr. No Shirt stops running and throws his arms up in the air before he starts yelling at me.
"HEY LADY! I'M DOING YOU A FAVOR! I WAS TELLING THEM TO MOVE SO I WOULDN'T RUN THEM OVER! I DIDN'T YELL AT THEM TO GET OUT OF THE WAY!"
This guy was infuriated. Totally furious. I could tell that whatever anger issues I might be harboring, he was harboring more. He was spitting and started cursing that he had his headphones on and the music is loud and he yelled out, "WHAT THE $%@* IS WRONG WITH YOU?!"
He was trying to intimidate me. But he didn't. Because although I wish I could run away from conflict, I totally lack that ability. There are times when I feel possessed by doing Goodwill for my fellow man and want to blow kisses to the Universe, and there are other times, I feel like I could kill my fellow man with my own two hands and launch their corpses in to outer space.
Especially this guy, who was probably a woman beater.
I yelled back at him, "I HEARD YOU YELL AT MY CHILDREN TO GET OUT OF YOUR WAY AND THEY WEREN'T IN YOUR WAY! IF YOU'VE GOT A PROBLEM - GO RUN ON THAT TRACK ..." arms gesturing to the adjacent field ... "OVER THERE!"
He started screaming something about me being stupid and an idiot. "LADY, YOU ARE A STUPID IDIOT! YOU ARE STUPID!! I WAS DOING YOU A FAVOR!!" Then, just before he took off running again, he yelled, "YOU SHOULDN'T START SOMETHING YOU AREN'T GOING TO FINISH!!!"
Seriously?? This is what Mr. No Shirt says to a woman with four small children under her direct supervision?? Wow. What a stud. What a stand up, honorable man.
I shouldn't start something I'm not going to finish.
Well, it's too bad he took off running like a pansy, because I'm pretty sure that I could have finished him off pretty well. My strategy consisted of poking out his eyeballs and shoving them in his ears. After I kicked his gems up to his larynx and coated him with pepper spray.
I was pumped.
I had four little
Once he ran away like a skunk and we exited the park, I could tell the kids were shaken and I felt like dirt. Why couldn't I have just left and not said anything?? I'm not sure how to explain it, except to say some other being took over.
(And ... I clearly lack sense.)
When we were out of the park, I pulled all the children close and told them that I'm very sorry they saw me get so upset. I really love them and I don't want any one to hurt them. Then I told them that the word of the day is JERK. "That man running around the park is a JERK."
The moral of this story is I may not be able to do a pull-over on the bar, but I'm pretty sure I could take anyone who threatens me or my children ... singlehandedly. And, I'm really glad that it was me at the park and not Charlie, because after discussing the incident with my husband, he assures me that he too would have spoken up - a fight most likely would have ensued - and I'd be looking for a good defense attorney.
Or, at least, some way to dispose Mr. No Shirt's body.
Isn't it great that I've been going to a Christian Church?
Yes. I know!!
It's really been doing WONDERS for me.