Wednesday, 23 November 2005

Oh, dearie

I've had the same unhappy dream several nights this week - I hope it's not going to become a regular feature of my nocturnal headscape. It's not that unusual for me to have the same dream a few times over a fortnight or so (one nightmare I had repeatedly last spring involved climbing up a windy snow-covered mountain then looking down and watching Baz fall down past me into the icy abyss) but they're usually very imaginary dreams, not made up of elements of real things that happened during the day, which is what this dream is about.

Last Thursday we went to see The Corpse Bride (it was ok - nothing amazing). About twenty minutes into the film three people came into the cinema: a woman about my age, a teenage girl in the cinema uniform, and a little boy about seven or eight. The teenager watched while the woman put the boy into the end seat in my row, wit two empty seats between me and him. She gave him a huge box of popcorn and a bottle of coke, said something like "you stay here Spunky" (I know she called him Spunky) and then the two women left.

I turned my head a few times to look at the boy trying to figure out what was going on, and each time his eyes were fixed on the screen and he was munching away quite contentedly, seemingly. I assumed the woman was his mum and that she'd be back soon. But she never came back. After the film ended and everyone went out to the foyer I watched the little boy. He was walking anxiously up and down the hall and round the foyer obviously looking for someone. The foyer was emptying very fast and the ticket counter & popcorn counter were closed up. I watched him for a minute or so then decided to intervene.

I walked up to him and said I'd been sitting near him in the movie and asked him if I could help. He looked very frightened at this point, probably in part because of beings spoken to by a stranger, but he nodded and said he couldn't find his mum and that she said she'd be waiting for him. I asked him if he'd like me to wait with him and he nodded yes, so I led him to a table and chairs in the foyer, told him my name, and asked his name and his mum's. At this point I remembered the teenage usher and decided to find a staff person to ask if any of them knew what was going on. I left him and walked a little way off where some girls were counting the till and began explaining what I've just explained to you. Just then, a man walked up to the boy and swung the boy onto his shoulders. The boy broke into smiles so I knew the man was probably his dad, somebody known to him, anyhow. They approached me and the man said "thanks" and the boy waved, I waved back, then off they went down the escalator.

The whole thing took much less time to happen than it took for me to tell and you to read. I felt like an interferer, and as the parent did in fact turn up fairly punctually, I may have actually managed to freak out the child even more than he accomplished on his own. That said, I'm still kind of horrified at the parents who left a little kid alone in a cinema for an hour and a half and then weren't there waiting for him when he expected them to be. In my dream, I'm seeing him as he looked when I bent down and spoke to him - utterly stricken, chin compressed to keep from crying.

I'm actually wondering now how much of this dream is adapted from having seen Flightplan a week previous - though there it's the mother who has lost her child not the child who's lost a parent. Jodie Foster is the mother, she spends the whole film, set on a huge airliner, looking for her little girl, who went missing while she was asleep. The film is basically about Jodie Foster being incredibly tense and wound up and haggard with anxiety and fear and need and aggressive / defensive maternal instinct.

Then there is the collection of lost child in the bush stories that I (found out) I will be teaching next year. And, I did actually lose something extremely important this week, which is partly why I haven't been around for a bit (and may not be back for a few days more.) Fortunately though I do know where the cat is right now. (Not with Bobsta, I'm happy to say.)


Ampersand Duck said...

Not sure about the dream (I think you're pretty good at the analysis bit) but I wholeheartedly approve of the way you dealt with the situation. I just can't sit by and watch anxious children like that, and quite often try to help.

Unfortunately you can only get away with that sort of child-helping if you're female these days. Men are always viewed suspiciously, no matter how genuine and kind they're trying to be. I did it myself the other day, when a man helped my son after a [minor] bicycle stack. You want to believe they're just being nice, but a part of your brain is on alert for any sign of weirdness. I hope I managed to be discreet enough about the suspicion, because he really was just a nice man!

demensa said...

I think you did the right thing - why leave a child anxious when you can help them. Bad parenting to leave a child that age alone in a public place and not be there.

And I think it's sad that Ducky is also right. The otherise terrible Ruth Ostrow wrote once about going up to her male friend to put her arm around him when they were at the pool with some friends and their kids, and seeing everyone relax. I try not to be hyperconscious.

dogpossum said...

i spent most of my undergrad years working in toy shops. everyday i dealt with the lost child issue. it was distressing. but even now, if i see a child distressed and lost, i intervene.
i also stop and help lost looking tourists, let people know if their fly's undone and volunteer to be a guide at orientation days.
i've also just spent the weekend running the mlx (

i obviously can't help but interfere.

Ampersand Duck said...

Yes, we're a pack of interfering old biddies -- but it also harks back to L's (troublesome) post about saying hello in the street. I like mild community interaction! But not so much that I'd be a street party leader or anything... I didn't know my neighbours had had a baby until it was 7 months old (and I'm a bit ashamed about that) :)

Mindy said...

Don't worry Ducky I thought our neighbours in Sydney must have been babysitting, until I started to hear their baby at all hours. It was only when we saw them all together that we finally realised he was their son. I didn't even realise she was pregnant. So you aren't the only one.

Zoe said...

(that Demensa comment was me, btw)

Lucy Tartan said...

When kids have had it drummed into them not to talk to strangers, does it upset them to have that rule broken in this kind of situation?

Zoe said...

I don't think so, but the kind of things you said, eg identifying that you'd been sitting nearby so they could contexualise you and asking them whether they would like you to stay with them, are sensitive and appropriate.

Being abandoned is allegedly fear number 1 for kids.

Cozalcoatl said...

Who wouldn't help the poor little guy. Its sad that men are viewed that way, i even think it sometimes. I don't want to but ....

When i was in the States in June there was a story about a 11 year old Scout that got separated from his group. He was not found for a few days mainly because he was hiding from the searchers.Taught not to talk to strangers....An extreme case but still a sad reflection.