The Village Nark


It takes a village to nark on each other’s kids.

Ever since we were able to buy a home within walking distance to downtown Northampton, I’ve anticipated with mixed emotions the time when my kids would eventually be out and about on their own. I loved the fact that they would be able to get downtown by foot and wouldn’t be dependent on rides. I didn’t love the fact that they would ever be out of my sight.

Fortunately, in this little city, that’s not such a problem, because the eyes are everywhere.

So far, no one has ever narked on Chuck for questionable behavior, but I always get reports from friends when they see him. They are often delighted that he seems to know who they are. I feel the same way when the teens I know prove to be aware of my existence.

I, however, have been narking on my friends’ kids for years. Often, it is innocent:

“Hey, I saw Artie walking down King Street toward Stop and Shop.
“What? He’s not supposed to do that!”
“Whoops. Sorry Artie.”

Sometimes I’m not sure whether I should nark, so I take an oblique approach. When I saw a friend’s son biking without a helmet, I posted on Facebook: “If you saw a friend’s child biking down Elm Street without a helmet, would you tell them.” Conveniently, the offending teen’s mom was the first to respond with: “I’d want to know.” I told her. Hopefully she didn’t reveal her source.

Last week, on the first warmish spring day, I looked out my window too see a friend’s daughter biking through the cemetery. At first I thought it was a rather odd woman pertly biking on a child’s bike with a big flowered basket, not unlike Miss Gulch in The Wizard of Oz. This would not be out of the realm of possibility in Northampton. Then I realized it was just a very pert child, one I knew. This led to another inadvertent narking.

– Is your child biking around the cemetery?
– Are they biking? I told them they could go to the cemetery together. I didn’t want them biking in it. Do you only see one??
– Oh jeez – am I narking on them? Now I see two.
– I appreciate the narking.

What followed was a hilarious thread about biking in cemeteries, gravestones shaped like penises, and how glad we are that everyone is looking out for our kids. For the record, these girls were wearing their helmets.

Sometimes the little city network is good just for keeping track of the kids. A year ago, on a Friday afternoon, I realized that I had no idea where Chuck was. He had walked from the middle school to downtown Florence, a village within the city limits of Northampton (or DT Floho, as he called it at the time). As usual, he wasn’t answering his cell phone, most likely because it was out of battery power. I mused on Facebook that I wished I had a tracking device implanted on him so I could trace him. Within minutes, a friend posted that she had just seen him walking down her street, which told me where he was and where he was going.

’Round here, we don’t need tracking devices or, apparently, cell phone battery power. We just need the village.

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3 Responses to The Village Nark

  1. Bill Emmons says:

    Thanks for this blast of nostalgia.

    Growing up on a small island (500 houses), we all knew there really where no, or precious few, secrets, at least until we started to drive and could escape to the mainland. Raising our two sons in Houston, where even our “neighborhood” of homes within a mile probably exceeded a population of 100,000, I missed the Narking, especially because the kids attended a dozen different elementary schools. This lead to tighter rules: unlike kids on the island, who could roam all the way to the bridge, ours were confined to just a few blocks, with car pool, or mommy pool needed to cross any of the (many) major roads.

  2. Margaret Miller says:

    I just have to say that I loved this post and it cracked me up. My younger one should be in the vicinity of Florence Center as I write!

  3. sarahbutten says:

    Have you posted this photo on a certain Mayor’s facebook page yet????

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