While kids grow up, they build these myths and fantasies around people who seem strange to them, or at least they don't understand. THE FOLLOWING IS TRUE. When I was around five years old, the kids in my neighborhood around my age somehow got the idea that roofing contractors were people who made "mustard and cream" (think of that when you pick out your condiments at fast food joints) out of kids like us, and their cauldrons used for heating tar were for that purpose. This fear extended to other contractors, and then to trucks, in general. Imagine my mother's bewilderment, one day, when a whole bunch of us kids burst in the house, and ran into my bedroom, and hid under my bed and in my closet, truly terrified, after seeing what I recall as a garbage truck. (Kids were thrown in the back, according to that legend.) Imagine, seeing me when I was about five years old, playing with a four-year-old, when she burst out, "There's CREAM." in horror, when a small delivery truck pulled up, with a facial expression, generally reserved for my grandmother and her peers, when seeing those they suspect to be purse-snatching hoodlums. (Looking back, I think this story was started by a younger kid-hating older brother of one of us.) Eventually, the truth of what the trucks were about was explained to us by more patient adults.
Other people and situations still did not have such forthright explanations. When I was about 12 years old, a 10-year-old and I were on our way to a Park and Rec activity, when a 20-something woman came up to us and pointed to a matronly-looking older woman, and asked, "Is she pretty? Is she pretty?", in a kind of bitter tone. Me, being a kind of philosophical 12-year-old with a semi-intellectual bent, replied, "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder." I thought I had given a truly wise response. "The beholder?," she inquired with a kind a sharp tone. We decided to split. She was weird, we thought. I didn't get it. At that age, I knew I knew little of female jealousy and competition, yet, I still couldn't understand how she could ask what she did with such a bitter, kind of jealous tone, when she was young and slender, and the woman she pointed to was kindly-seeming older lady walking a loveable-seeming pooch. Being an adult, I can still only speculate. Mental illness? Being under the influence of some substance?? Just having a bad day??
Another legend seemed to be spreading throughout the neighborhood when I was in high school. Someone at school told me that her neighbor kind of lost it when her husband died. She and her husband had both been Stanford graduates and doctors, but ever since her husband died, she would go around the neighborhood shopping area, talking to herself, and would approach people and ask, "Are you a Democrat or a Republican?" If you said you were a Democrat, she would say, "Nonsense, you should be a Republican." Then, one Halloween, her house burnt to the ground. (I did walk to her street, just to check it out, and there was the remains of a burnt house, there.) The girl who told me this was pretty credible; she seemed nice and levelheaded, and in the Honors classes at school, so I don't think she was the type who would make up stories just to freak people out.
Stranger still, are the people who you see well into your adult life, whom you still can't figure out. When I was about 9 or younger, I saw this man walking through my neighborhood, and sometimes he had a cap on his head, but other times, there was no cap, but there was what looked like a good application of black tar asphalt covering his skull. My little friends and I were wondering what that was, and one day, they elected me "You're the oldest" to ask him about it. When I asked him what that thing was on his head, he said, "I don't know," which really sent me and my pals through the roof, if there would have been a roof outside. "HE DOESN'T KNOW!!" However, we had our own speculations. We were near a church, and he had a kind of an odd way of dressing as well, black with kind of a Nehru jacket with the shape of a collar which was kind of like what priests have (no white, though) so we thought maybe we was some kind of a priest--a priest of a religion none of us belonged to. Other times, our guesses seemed wilder, that he was from another planet. Sometimes, I thought he belonged to a weird cult.
The sitings became fewer and more far between, and I moved into my adult life and into other neighborhoods, and sometimes, I thought some of the memories I had of my childhood were just from dreams. Yet, some times in my thirties, in a totally different neighborhood, I saw this gentleman again, always with the cap on now, much more elderly now, of course, but I always remembered him as a senior citizen. I've seem him on the bus and in the Post Office, so I guess he is capable of getting around. He still wears those unusual jackets, with what looks like stirrup pants (like what was in fashion for women during the '90's or around then) under them. He has an unusual small build, so somehow it all fits. I doubt if he is a priest, though he may frequent a church--he sometimes carries a Bible. He does seem to have odd features, but then those without classic features perhaps look better in other than classic clothing styles. Or maybe, he has a dysmorphic condition. I talked to a co-worker about him, and it seemed like he may have tried to do some "self-doctoring" by applying some tar to his head, maybe to cover a scar or some other disfigurement. Anyway, I think perhaps I should be using the past tense for some of the verbs describing him in this paragraph. I haven't seen him lately, and it did seem he must have lived a long life for me to have seen him as recently as I did. Well, he may have had some struggles, but it seemed like he tried to cope independently, and if he attended church services, at least, he had some outlet for social contact. We will never know the truth on everything.