The other day we were grabbing a quick take out sandwich, and I offered a meal to a youngish man/still kind of a boy who was sitting in a corner. He turned it down. He seemed slightly insulted, and I suppose on second thought scruffy, grubby, morose looking young men eating cheerios out of a baggie don't necessarily have to be down on their luck. I have been depressed most of my life and I often think I am seeing sadness. I'm glad I am wrong sometimes.
The episode reminded me of two other episodes where things were different than they looked.
Once upon a time I used to make the Offspring play soccer. The league she played in was pretty large and lots of local businesses and groups sponsored teams. The teams were always known by their sponsors and had the sponsor logo on the t-shirt. One year she was on a team sponsored by the Sober Riders Motorcycle Club. And one Saturday morning that year, we were working at a hotdog sale just outside the grocery store and Offspring was wearing her soccer shirt. A couple about my age came out of the store and bought hotdogs and pop, and they noticed the logo on the shirt. "Hey! That's us! I didn't know we sponsored a soccer team. Can we come to the games?" I said I thought so, and we filled them in on the schedule and they went on their way. Later that day I was sitting on the sidelines with other parents and I feel this frisson of excitement down the way. I looked to see what was going on and couldn't see anything, but I could hear jangling and when I leaned back to look down the crowd between the fields, I could see all those poor middle class parents parting like the Red Sea as a crowd of bikers in full regalia strode toward our field. The couple from the hot dog stand recognized me and the whole bunch of them sat down on the grass with me and cheered the team on. I will never forget the electricity in the air as those bikers walked down the field, the dignity with which they walked through the crowd, and their wonderful enthusiasm for a bunch of 11 year old girls playing a game.
When the Offspring was 17 she became a punk. All her friends were punk too, and most of them looked the part. They were pierced and dyed and mohawked and shaved and tattooed and wore leather or rags. Or leather and rags. Or leather rags. They looked pretty motley if you didn't look too close. If you bothered to look closely you could see what a bunch of pixies and cherubs they all were. And they were smart and informed and thoughtful. Way smarter than I was in my teens. Something like 17 of them were renting a house on Freeman Street and they were constantly having parties (to which they always invited the neighbours). One day Offspring (who had two different colours of hair and was pierced but not yet tattooed and who was probably wearing three crinolines with her doc martins because she was making and wearing crinolines at the time) and I were in the grocery store enduring the looks of people who clearly thought I was a bad mother for having this obviously delinquent kid, when a crowd of her friends runs in and surrounds us. They were all jumping up and down and yelping like a bunch of joyful puppies and the adults in the store were scandalized by this gang and casting aspersive looks at us. What all the kids were all worked up about was that they had just received a letter from Foster Parent's Plan. They had been sponsoring a child somewhere and had just been notified that their sponsorship had contributed to building a school in their child's village, and the village had decided to call it the Freeman school.
Things aren't always what they seem. Sometimes they are even better.