Two Parenting Stories From the Country That Used to Be America

Hardened Criminal #1: Stay-at-home suburban mom lets kids ride scooters on her cul-de-sac. Pain-in-the-ass neighbor calls to complain. Idiot cops fail to tell neighbor to get bent, and instead arrest the mother for child endangerment: overnight in jail, orange jumpsuit, 18 hours behind bars and all.

Hardened Criminal #2: Working, lower-income mom gets daughter a laptop so the daughter has something to do while she waits in McDonald’s for mom to finish her shift. Laptop gets stolen. Daughter asks if she can play in a nearby park with fresh air and cool water rather than soaking up the atmosphere in the nation’s primary fat factory. Mom gets daughter a cell phone so she can check on her and then let’s her go play. Mom is arrested for child endangerment and daughter is given to social services. Watch the video here and read the story here.

My entire childhood is now illegal. My parents, and the parents of most kids raised in the 1970s, would be put in jail today.

You know, it’s not that we didn’t have cranky neighbors in the 1970s who would call the cops on playing kids. It’s that the cops were not stupid enough to respond, or if they did, it was just to say “Move along down the street so you stop bothering the crazy lady and I can get back to my donuts.” The idea of a parent being cuffed, stuffed, booked, printed, charged, and held would have be incomprehensible. Neighbors would have shown up at the police station to yell at cops. No one would have thought this was a proper application of force.

When I was growing up we had an old lady in my neighborhood who freaked  if a foot touched her lawn. It’s just that no one paid any attention to her. (She was totally bonkers, screaming in German and running out her door as though she sat at the window watching and waiting. Did we torment her by deliberately stepping off the sidewalk and onto her lawn?, we were once asked by a parent. The question offended me. Of course we did.)

What happened to us?

St. Swithun: Weather Man

Happy St. Swithun’s Day! Is it raining today? Then according to old British lore, it will rain for the next 40 days. We know this is true because a poem says so:

St. Swithun’s day if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain,
St. Swithun’s day if thou be fair,
For forty days ’twill rain nae mare.

St. Swithun (Stowe Breviary). As for the guy in the marginals…I don’t even…

Makes about as much sense as waiting for an overgrown weasel to see its shadow.

Swithun was Bishop of Winchester in the 9th century, and much of what we know of him comes from later hagiography. His fame came about a century after his death, when his remains were transferred from an outdoor grave (where he wished to be buried so people could walk over his resting place) to Winchester Cathedral. This is supposed to have irritated the Saint, who made the day of the transfer of his relics (his current feast day: July 15th) notoriously rainy, and it remained so ever after.

In fact, Swithun is not alone in the power of weather forecasting at this time of the year. In June and July, St. Medard (France), The Seven Sleepers (Germany), and St. Godelieve (Flanders) are attached to similar lore in placse, which may in fact originate in in pre-Christian times: a kind of a pagan Farmer’s Almanac. It’s not that far-fetched. Weather can fall into patterns in July that last through August. We read the Farmer’s Almanac, and they manage to predict weather patterns for a year in an advance with an accuracy that often is uncanny.

Since we had a torrential downpour and tornadoes last night around the time that it was turning into July 15th in England, I’m hoping St. Swithun is wrong this year.

The saint also got attached to the phrase “from now until St. Swithun’s day” to indicate a really long time. Or maybe it was just something Col. Potter said on MASH.

“And that’s not horse hockey.”