It’s mid morning and the heat index is being driven towards 100 degrees due to the stifling humidity. We’re walking at a snail’s pace through the parking lot of the local park. The sun is blinding. The blacktop is reflecting shimmering heat onto our damp skin.
The kids and I were supposed to meet up with new friends at the park, but we’re forty minutes late because it took so long to get all four small people dressed and out the door. Henry’s shoes were lost somewhere in the house and it had taken an extra fifteen minutes of searching to locate them so we could finally go.
There’s a police car sitting off to the side in the grass, facing the park. I first noticed a policeman staring because he had this camera I’ve never seen before, later on my friend told me it was a body camera amazon, a special one for law enforcement, he was sitting inside staring at the people coming and going,
Igor notices and stiffens.
“Why dis policia, Mama?” He stops walking.
“I’m not sure. He’s probably here to make sure all of the families are safe.”
“No, policia bad. So bad.” I can see that the invisible, mysterious emotional switch has flipped and soon we will be heading into stomping, pouting, downhill, no good, miserable territory.
I quickly try to smooth it over, awkwardly.
“Police in America are good, nice. They help people, they stop bad guys. Maybe Ukraine police are scary, but I promise police in America are good.”
We keep walking towards the soccer field, where we were planning on playing soccer and baseball.
“Policia bad,” Igor insisted. All excitement about playing soccer with me had now faded.
“In Ukrainia my dad is at house. My dad watching TV. Policia come in!”
Igor was miming crashing and banging, then punching as if the police had broken down the door and then fought with his dad.
“Policia is dis…” He motions to show me handcuffs on wrists. “Dad is go. I sad. Mama Ukrainia sad. Dad juss watch TV and policia…” Igor throws his hands in the air as if to communicate how ridiculous and outrageous this was.
“Dad no bad. Polica bad. Dad juss watch TV and policia…” More miming of violence and handcuffing.
What do I say? How do I respond to this story?
Rosie and Ada are listening silently, watching me. Watching Igor. No one knows what to say. Sweat drips down the back of my neck. My skin feels like it’s baking, though at the moment I’m not sure if it’s from the sun or the mix of emotions.
Before I can craft an appropriate response Igor continues on.
“Policia eez here to us, to you, then I am…” He draws the metal bat from our bag and violently swings it, Ninja Turtle style, complete with sound effects. Then he points to his head. “I am policia here. You no go to policia. I am dis.” He wiggles the bat in emphasis.
He’s telling me he will beat the police in the head with this metal bat if they try to take me, or any of us.
In the span of two seconds I am considering how to explain to him how that is not the appropriate response to police. Then I’m frantically trying to think of what to say to make any of this ok.
Except I can’t make it ok, because seeing your dad violently arrested while you are watching TV together will never be ok.
So I just slip my hand in his hand and we walk.