The story of "Forest Boy" caught my attention this week, as it did with the international media. Just to catch you up, if you haven't already heard, Forest Boy claimed to have been living in the woods in Europe with his dad for five years. The dad died, and Forest boy wandered into Berlin with his tent, rucksack, and a fantastic story. Of course, it later came out that he was actually a young Dutchman, who simply wanted to start over. I was kind of bummed to hear it, because I love a good mystery and I find feral children fascinating.
This got me thinking about some urban feral children that live right here in D.C. WH and I recently completed a brief stint living in Cleveland Park while we searched for a new home (we found one!). This is where we came upon the phenomenon known as the Feral Children of Cleveland Park. Since we've moved south to our new neighborhood (Logan Circle), I
haven't seen any Feral Children. In fact, I never saw any in Adams
Morgan when we lived there either (Feral College Students, perhaps, but
that's another story for another day), which leads me to believe that
the Feral Children are unique to Cleveland Park.
They don't wander up from the bowels of Rock Creek Park, oh no! They live a sheltered, privileged existence in the large homes off Connecticut Avenue. The typical FC of CP is under the age of five, has parents aged somewhere north of 45, and is generally permitted to run amok in supermarkets, restaurants, houses of worship, nail salons, or anywhere, really, that people gather. The FC of CP, though he or she comes from a home of considerable means, often looks unkempt, possibly even soiled.
Take for instance the Feral Child I once ran into in the Brookville Market. I was picking up bread and lunch meat, trying to get in and out fairly quickly. FC was about four years old, had waist-length, unruly, tangled brown hair, a dirty t-shirt, and untied shoes. I think he might've had a binky, too, but I could be making that up for effect. He ran up and down each aisle, screaming as if he were being chased (he wasn't). Alarmed by this obviously unsupervised child, I looked around to see if any adult was willing to claim him (or looked like they might be attached to this wild child). I was the youngest person in the store by at least 20 years, and didn't see anyone who looked as if they might be his parent.
FC continued to run and scream, and since I had places to be and didn't want to claim him either, I moved to the check out. In front of me was an elderly man of about 70, paying for his groceries. As I unloaded my wares from the basket, the Feral Child ran up behind the old man and slapped him, hard, on the ass. I stood there, stunned, waiting for a tirade from this poor old fellow who had been brutalized from behind by a loathsome monster. But then something completely unexpected happened . . . the old man bent over (rather slowly), playfully grabbed the feral child around the waist, tickled him, and said, "Oh Parker, you are so silly!" And with that, the Feral Child slapped the old man again, saying "Take that, Daddy!" and ran off to cause more mayhem.
Should you see a Feral Child, don't get too close. He or she is liable to act erratically, prone to throwing tantrums, definitely interested in running, and probably unsupervised. His or her parents think everything he or she does is adorable, and are frankly too exhausted to adequately discipline said child. The best advice I can give when dealing with a Feral Child is to not look directly at him. Finish your business as quickly as possible, and remove yourself from the location where she is wreaking her havoc. And by all means, do not laugh at, compliment the "adorableness" of, pet, or feed the Feral Children of Cleveland Park . . . or they just might try to follow you home.
*Note: Lest you think I'm anti-child, I feel the need to clarify that not all Cleveland Park children are feral. In fact, there are some rather nicely behaved kids up there. But it's the feral ones that stand out (and run rampant).