The five kids had set up Morgan’s four-man tent outside our patio door. Morgan, Austin, The Girls and Valerie. The Girls are sisters—one in Kindergarten, the other in second grade. Little pistols. But for the sake of this story, inconsequential.
This one’s about Valerie, a chubby, nine-year-old Latino girl who lives in the apartment complex with her older brother and mother. Both of who do their darndest to ignore her.
“Demanding” is an understatement. Valerie knows that if she whines long enough, others will tend to her needs just to shut her up. At the complex’s pool, her mother stays on the cell phone with her back to her daughter. Valerie will shout, “Watch me!” over and over until, finally, some sap will offer to “watch” her do a flip or a cannonball or a handstand or swim underwater all the way across the pool. I’ve done it. All the while, Carmen chats, seemingly oblivious.
But back to the tent story… Austin’s Mom had gone to McD’s and come back with a bag full of dollar-double cheeseburgers, a few jumbo orders of fries and five small sodas. Beth starts doling out the burgers and drinks and divvying up the fries. All the kids are graciously taking their free food and saying their thanks. Except Valerie.
“I don’t want a little cheeseburger. I want a Crispy Chicken Club. That’s what I always get,” she said, not accepting the sandwich being handed to her. Beth continued to hold the burger in front of her face.
“Sorry, Valerie,” said Beth, “But I got these so I could afford to buy enough food for everybody. I wasn’t taking orders.” Good thing, because if she had asked, I’m sure all the kids, mine included, would have given her a longer list. But four out of the five kiddos understood to accept what you’re offered and be happy. At least if it’s somebody else’s Mom doing the offering.
As for Valerie, she left in a huff with an empty stomach. Beth ate her burger.