Today I stopped by to see Rita, Ruth and Maria while they were parking motorcars. The kids are out of school because the teachers are on strike. After a few minutes of idle chatter Rita said that Ruth needed a bra. “Oh No my little Ruth is growing up!” I hate to admit it but I had to agree but not an area of my expertise, sending me to shop for bras is like asking a barber to perform surgery, totally out of my league. I could just envision myself going into a store with a twelve year old girl to try on bras. This required ayuda (help) so I got Camila to go with me. Again I am tagging along as the two ladies looked at various little bras. I did get some strange looks from the clerks but nothing like if I had gone solo. I did add one piece of valuable info, as the girls picked out two, one pink and one blue, I suggested that she get a white one so it wouldn’t show under some of her shirts. I was very proud of myself… As we reached the counter the banker stepped up did his important job and we walked out with a smile on Ruth’s face and a unique adventure for me. You really don’t want me doing surgery or picking out bras.
On the way to go bra shopping we were walking down the street and ran into Jeremiah, Ruth’s little bother. He was running up the sidewalk with a tiny bag full of plastic army men. It was obvious that he had made a recent purchase but this is a five year old, with no money and he is running down a busy street all by himself. We stopped him and asked how he was able to get the money to buy toys? He responded that he had been begging on the street to earn it, he still had about fifty centavos (fifteen cents). I have to give the little guy kudos for his ingenuity but it put an exclamation point on a concern I have had since I got down here, Jeremiah is out of control.
The other night I saw him out by himself slinking around the boulevard at 12pm. Rita says he is uncontrollable. Camila and I sat down and had a discussion on a plan of action for this little wild man. Rita has a four other children (Anali 17 Ruth 12, Maria 10, Celeste 2 and Anali’s baby Ruth 1) all living in a ten by twenty foot room. She has been working really hard, parking motorcars, cooking and selling food along the boulevard at night. Ruth and Maria are big helpers. They regularly fill in for their Mama, parking motos, washing clothes, washing dishes. Jeremiah is just wild, running around the neighborhood naked, biting other kids at school, stealing stuff from the tutor’s house. Something has to be done or this kid will become a street thug real soon. Either a pedophile will zero in on him or the pasta head street piranhas will start teaching him how to smoke pasta (pasta is cocaine in its early form), pickpocket or beg for them.
I hate to use the term “triage” with a five year old but I wondered if that wouldn’t be the best thing for Jeremiah. Triage is a war term, you save the ones you know are savable and leave the rest to die. If you try to save all the wounded you end up doing more harm than good. I asked Camila if there were other options and she said we could send Jeremiah to a home for troubled kids. It makes me want to cry as I write these words but we decided to broach the subject with Rita. As Camila put the problem on the table, Rita knew deep down she had to deal with her child, I saw tears well up in her eyes. I know many parents face the hard decisions what to do with a problem child but it usually happens in the teenage years not at five years old. I don’t know all the answers but just pray that she does what is best for Jeremiah and the family as a whole. Today was a day full of brassieres and tough decisions…