Have you noticed a shift in the ’can-I-borrow-a-cup-of-sugar’ mentality in your neighborhood? I have. I’m lucky that my mom lives nearby. When I’m rushing to bake something and I come up short on an ingredient, I ask a kid to hop on a bike and race to my mom’s to borrow a tablespoon of this or a cup of that. It’s not just that there aren’t people home to reach out to because they are working, it’s the rude way they behave when they are home. My neighbor (and I use the term loosely), Mary Ann, is one of them. This woman takes the cake. I am confidant that I could devote enough posts to Mary Ann’s self involved, entitled behavior that it could become its own blog. I have avoided mention of her antics thus far, but her most recent un-neighborly infraction was the last straw. Now I feel compelled to share.
Although we knew the family before we moved in across the street six years ago, I would not classify Mary Ann and I as good friends. Her boys were a bit older than mine followed about 5 years later by a daughter who arrived a year after Eddie. We had some friends in common, our children attended the same Catholic grade school, and we were on friendly terms. Shortly after we got settled, the fact that we would never become close became evident.
Mary Ann walked over to the house one evening in the fall with her 7th grade son’s sweatshirt in her hand. She explained that 4th grade Laddie had ripped the pocket during a recent backyard football game featuring our boys. I was shocked. I failed to grasp how this Hoodie sweatshirt with a ripped pocket could be my problem. Mary Ann stated that since I knew how to sew, she thought I could fix it. As her words were spoken, a fussy Curly wailed unhappily in my arms. I agreed to fix the rip even though I had yet to unpack my sewing machine. That year I managed to create Halloween costumes without the use of my machine- by design. I was focusing on simplifying my life. Curly was a very fussy baby, and the move across town to a larger house made me one busy mother. No plan to take on sewing projects anytime soon led to a sealed and stowed sewing machine box. Tending to Curly, unpacking boxes, painting rooms, adjusting to life without bus service to school, and taking care of the other five kids under 10 kept me constantly in motion. A ripped pocket on a neighbor kid’s sweatshirt had no business being added to my overflowing plate. The nerve. My kids wore appropriately crappy clothes when they ventured out to toss a ball around in the yard. I’m no dummy. Mary Ann informed me that this was the only coat he would wear no matter what the temperature. Sounds like a discipline issue, if you ask me. But the only thing she was asking was when could I have the work completed.
I stepped inside where my crew was crowded around our old kitchen table eating dinner. Coach was at work. The kids wondered why I was holding the neighbor boy's Hoodie in my hand. I shared the news with the boys. Laddie worried that he was in trouble. He was apologetic and explained that it was an accident. Eddie told us that the Hoodie-lover’s little brother had also been playing in the game. When Hoodie-lover made a fuss about the damage to his ‘coat‘, the brother told my boys not to worry about it. He confided that the pocket had suffered a previous tear. This backyard incident just made the rip worse. Interesting.
The next day I phoned Mary Ann and asked her for a favor. I was still in disbelief that we were both driving our kids in separate cars to the same school at the same time each morning and again after school. What mother could be opposed to a carpool? I was lucky enough to move in across the street from one of the few. I explained to her that Laddie needed to remain after school for altar boy training. Rather than drive to pick up Eddie at 3:00 followed shortly by a jaunt to pick up Laddie at 4:00, I was hoping she wouldn’t mind giving Eddie a ride home after school. I quickly pointed out that this one day arrangement would also allow Curly to nap until 4:00 rather than being pulled from sleep and buckled in a car seat at 3:00 shortly after her nap began. Perhaps when she realized Curly was being awoken each afternoon, she would offer a carpool scenario. Not on your life. I laugh now when I think that I ever thought this thought process would occur. She did agree to grab Eddie for me. Sweet. There were parameters though. I was to instruct 1st grade Eddie to walk to her car. She waited in her car in front of the Church. She wasn’t accustomed to getting out of her vehicle, and driving home a first grader would not force her to alter her routine. I briefed Eddie on the situation at breakfast. Reminding him to walk over to her car. He grasped the concept. No problem.
I took advantage of the uninterrupted naps that Reggie and Curly were enjoying, and dug my sewing machine out of the unopened box in my closet. I had just settled in to sew the pocket in place, when the phone rang. I was greeted with a loud, frustrated voice. “Ernie? Where is he?” she screamed into the phone. I jumped up and grabbed my keys. It was a knee jerk reaction. Did I really need to drive over there and help her find him? “Didn’t you tell him where to meet me?” she hollered. “These kids have homework they have to get done before basketball tryouts tonight.” I sputtered around, searching for sensible words when really I wanted to call her a bad name and light her son’s only-functioning, highly-inadequate winter coat (that ironically lay across my sewing machine) on fire. Instead I suggested that Eddie probably forgot about the special arrangement and that he was most likely standing by the flag pole waiting for me. She huffed and puffed about the fact that she would now have to get out of her car. I can only assume that her 7th grader was too cold to exit the vehicle and claim my 1st grade son, who I so recklessly left in their charge. Eddie admitted when he arrived home that the temporary change in plans had slipped his mind. I was testing the newly sewn pocket of the infamous hoodie that I had just completed. I punched it forcibly over and over again with my fist. Seemed to hold up well. Good as new. Super.
Countless other episodes of ’As the World Turns Around Mary Ann' have played out in our lives over the years. I call her infrequently, which allows me to avoid hearing her syrupy voice on her answering machine message utter, 'Have a blessed day!' I ceased requesting rides from her, but promptly discovered two other moms with slightly older kids who lived in the neighborhood across the street. They were more than happy to drive my kids home on occasion, and recalled the hectic days punctuated by napping babies and toddlers. They typically stopped for a McDonald’s shake or similar treat on the way home too. Major. Mary Ann would be unloading her kids on her driveway, while mine stepped out of another mom’s car with a snack. Mary Ann had to recognize that these moms traveled slightly out of their way just to be kind and neighborly.
No chance in Hell I would be asking this barrel of fun for a cup o' sugar. She is clearly so sweet herself, that she probably doesn't own any additional sweetener anyway.