Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Talk

The time is rapidly approaching when I may need to have "The Talk" with Sam.

You know the one...

...the one where I try to explain to him why someone would walk into an office or school and shoot people or children he doesn't know.

After the recent mass shooting at the Navy Yard, Elise and I feared that someone in Sam's class, a parent, or teacher might say something about it. We were lucky. So far, no one has, but this was the first time one of these incidents was close enough where it may have worked into the school's collective psyche. Maybe one of the parents or one of the teachers knew someone at the Navy Yard that morning, or maybe the school decided to take some sort of precautions in light of the event.

If we had been posted to Nairobi, we would definitely have to be dealing with this kind of conversation. Thankfully, we are not. At least, for now.

Elise and I feel it is important that Sam (and probably, soon after, Peter and Clementine) learn about life from us. Though I don't look forward to having to talk to him about terrorism or mass shootings, I'd rather be the one to explain these things to him.

Living overseas, I don't believe we are more vulnerable or are closer to terrorism or violence, but I do believe we are closer to the side effects of living in a world where terrorism and violence are prevalent. For example, every day when we drove into work in Brazil we had to stop at the gate so the guards could check under our car and under the hood for bombs. I don't think most people have to have their car checked for bombs on the way to the office in the U.S. Elise and I had to field the inevitable questions of why the guards were checking our car, and we told Peter and Sam that the guards were nice enough to check everyone's car to make sure the engine was working.

I hope to keep them innocent for as long as possible. There is no need for them to be any more nervous about India or the future than they are already. This will prove to be increasingly difficult.

The company that owns our corporate housing apartment building owns several other corporate housing apartment buildings throughout Northern Virginia. They are stocked from a small warehouse directly below our apartment, and the patio to our apartment is directly above the loading dock where once or twice a day, a truck backs up and is filled with sheets, pillows, side tables, plastic trees, and nondescript abstract wall art. Of course, the truck comes most frequently during naps so the sound of the back of the truck opening or of the lift going up and down can wake Clementine. Sometimes, the truck comes at other times of the day.

The children like hanging out on the balcony, and when the truck pulls up, they all say "Hi!" to the truck driver and wave. Sam and Peter will run a commentary over his actions loud enough so he can clearly hear. "Sam, here comes our no-hair guy!" "Look, Sam. He's got three trees today!" "Hey, look, Pete! He's smoking. He shouldn't be smoking, should he?"

A few weeks ago, when President Obama's calls to launch a strike against Syria for using chemical weapons were at their shrillest, the truck driver and another moving man were talking about it. As I said, the loading dock is right below our balcony, and the boys could clearly here the two talk. The truck driver said something like, "Them rebels...they always ask for our help...then when they win, they turn right around and bomb us!" Later, he added, "If there's war in Syria, this whole place is going to fill up! We'll be busy as shit!"

(What he meant to say was war in Syria would lead to evacuations from many overseas missions and even more residents in temporary corporate housing. Thankfully, war has been averted for now. I'm relieved for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the least of which is that Sam and Pete's no-hair truck driver won't have to work overtime.)

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