Are the Kids Alright?
It cropped up in this thread this week: the optimism inherent in witnessing a high school band – even a reconstituted one made up of the members of three school bands – strutting its stuff and playing its best while marching towards Canal Street, despite all odds. It got me thinking about a few of the characters we’ve seen thus far in Treme who are under 18…
We first meet Darius late at night in the bar Albert is living in, caught with his pants down and a girl in the next room. Next thing we know, his aunt is asking Albert to take him under his wing, and then she, too, is brought into the orbit of the Guardians of the Flame while Darius is taking in the late-night practices at the bar with all his clothes on and no girl in sight. He’s getting into it, embracing it as it is enticing him and giving him a sense of community in a place that has lost its people for the time being. It shows him another way to be a man.
Sophie is her parents’ only child, and having been an only child myself for nearly fifteen years, I can see how much she takes on the interests of the adults around her, especially those of her father, Creighton. We see her taking on some reading about the city at the kitchen table, getting a costume ready for Krewe du Vieux, being true to Creigh’s school, Tulane, in the YouTube that inspires him to start ranting online, taking in his moody soliloquies as a Cordelia to his Lear…but there is her mother’s sense of justice in there, as evidenced by her reaction to going to the Fortier-turned-Lusher and her thoughts of the Fortier kids that once went there being shut out. She also helps her mother read some flood-damaged documents, her young eyes giving Toni an invaluable clue on the trail to finding LaDonna’s brother Daymo.
Why aren’t there more kids at this time? It’s early 2006 by the show’s timeline, and the schools that are able to have reopened…but the city was still in chaos in too many ways. The fictional Bernette family is a lucky family indeed, judging by appearances: they have a house, they have their jobs, they have all their possessions. The reality was more complicated. The questions were difficult ones. The pros and cons had to be weighed carefully, especially if there were children involved.
What happened to my house? My stuff? Oh, no, don’t open that, it’s nasty…needs to be duct-taped and put out on the curb…insurance will pay for the roof damage ’cause it’s counted as wind, but the floodwaters? Forget it…Have they picked up the garbage yet? What about the mail? I still haven’t gotten my last paycheck from before I had to leave, and I keep going down to the post office and waiting in line nearly every day for it. How the hell could the school district have laid off all the teachers? They’re not reopening – the school building looks like hell. I can’t afford to pay for a Catholic school, not if I can’t get my old job back. My old job seems to be gone. How can anybody make a living here now?
What it came down to in a lot of cases for families was making life better for the kids. Hearts broke, certainly; fist-shaking at Barbara Bush’s callous remarks ensued, surely – but not everybody was up for this fight over the city’s future. It was still unclear, six months later, what sort of city was emerging from all that hurt….but most parents concluded it wasn’t going to be a great environment for the young ones, no matter how much the family had been invested in the life of the city. Money was needed now. The kids needed to be in school now. It was important to have a roof over your head now.
Children in particular are all about the now. The latest. The trendiest. The newest. And here are two of the city’s children growing up stuck between what was and what could be.
What can the kids see that we can’t?
Where will they take us?
What is their normal in all this madness?
Even if we have partial answers to these questions, in their deepest heart of hearts, our children are unknowable. The band of life will play on, and the best we will be able to do as parents is to send good cheer and encouragement the kids’ way and, as all good parents do, we will watch them marching on as we slowly, slowly let them go.