Monday, August 17, 2009
Won't you be my neighbor
Unwittingly, Ryan and I moved into the home that acts as a clear divider between a cute little neighborhood for Young Urban Professional types (the ones with macs and priuses) and a neighborhood that has a higher than average number of meth labs per square mile.
Our neighbors on the east side have lived there for eight years. They have two Schnauzer-mix mutts that they rescued from the pound and a three year old son with a squeaky little voice. They just had a baby. The first day we moved in, the husband came cheerily peeking around the fence to greet us and introduce himself. He was so nice it made me feel almost awkward, but mostly just really warm and cozy. He filled us in on some neighborhood gossip and offered to help if we ever needed anything.
When we discovered that our swamp cooler was non-functional, this dear man lent us his ladder and spent hours diagnosing the problem. He checked in with us the next day to make sure everything went ok. He is not messing around. The man is taking his neighbor-duties to the next level.
Two doors down to the west of our house, in stark contrast, there live eight hundred children between the ages of zero and ten. I can't tell them apart. They all look like Mowgli and run around, half-clad, waiting to be hit by cars.
One afternoon, we spied one of the littler Mowglis sauntering down our driveway, coming from the direction of the backyard, wearing nothing but a diaper. She is a cute little one, so we just said hi and didn't think much of it.
Two mornings later, there were some serious thunderstorms, so I went out in the morning to see what kind of toll had been taken on the vegetable garden. Things looked blown around a bit, so I set out picking up the wind-blown refuse, or so I thought. "Boy," I mused. "I wonder how this plastic vegetable start container managed to get itself wedged up here in the tomato plant! Furthermore, I've never seen a wind, myself, that could blow hedge trimmers to the other side of the patio!" As I continued my investigation, I discovered that the poppies Ryan had been painstakingly nurturing had been uprooted, as had a sugar snap pea plant.
When I alerted Ryan to the mayhem, first he spent twenty minutes spitting expletives over the lost poppies, and then proclaimed "That kid! That little girl! She must have been in the yard!"
The next evening we set up the sprinkler in the front yard and went for a little walk. When we returned we found the sprinkler moved and the grass mangled like a dog had been having a good roll around. More tragically, our potted tomato on the front porch had suffered an amputation of the limb with all the baby tomatoes on it. Still more tragic, the perpetrator had left behind a full diaper in the middle of the lawn, as a token to remember her by.
It was the final straw. We were banking on those tomatoes--they were our first of the season! So we picked up the broken tomato branch, the full diaper, and marched down two doors.
An eleven-year-old Mowgli opened the door.
"Can I talk to your mom or dad?"
Mowgli looked perplexed, but went and alerted the woman sitting at the kitchen table in front of the computer that there were visitors.
I started things off. "Hi! We're your neighbors!"
Her sullen face beckoned me on.
"Um. We have noticed that your daughter likes to play in our backyard..."
Sullen-face perked up. "You need to talk to the mom. I'm the Grandma."
"Oh, ok. Can we talk to the mom then?"
Sullen face retreated and returned with a woman who was her exact replica, save a few gray hairs.
"Hi, are you the mom?"
Sullen face Jr. just stared at me.
"Well, we have noticed that your daughter [gestures to diapered child in the next room] has been getting into our backyard..." I proffered the branch, Ryan the diaper, as evidence.
Sullen face retorted, "He's a BOY."
Evidently she didn't know how difficult it can be to accurately ascertain the gender of a child who never wears clothing and has never had a haircut.
"Oh, sorry. My mistake. Your son, then. I think he ripped this branch off of our tomato plant. And he left this [gestures to full diaper in hand of unlucky spouse] in the middle of the yard."
"He don't wear diapers."
I was flummoxed. The child before me was wearing a diaper.
She continued, "Mowgli, do you go into their yard?"
Mowgli piped up, "Yeah! Into the garden!"
Finally, victory was in sight.
I, with all the gentleness I could muster, said, "Could you ask Mowgli to stop playing in our yard? He has done quite a bit of damage already."
Sullen face stared back. We just backed away slowly and decided to take matters into our own hands.
We have started keeping the trash cans in front of the gate, but if we catch that kid in our yard once more, I'm getting an electric fence.