Except we all know, this is me we're talking about here. Jen. Nothing is executed like a magazine in my life, regardless of how hard I try.
That beautiful bonfire pit? It was only hours earlier completely covered in nasty red ants that were eating the flesh off my legs. The picturesque little woodstack? Home to an absurdly aggressive earwig population. Those fancy-looking lawn chairs? I attempted to sit in one before it was fully open and fell backwards, out of the chair, into my Doberman's recent poop....which of course had just been infiltrated by a group of disturbed earwigs eager for revenge. Ahh let's see, what else....creative stump side-tables? I had to pull apart my kid's log "castle" to find stumps flat enough to balance on end. I won't tell you how bad it was when Anya found out. I'll let you go ahead and use your imagination on that one.
It all worked out ok, though, and once everyone started arriving you could barely see the ant bites covering my lower extremities. We had good food, good friends, and the kids were entertained.
And then I heard it.
Over and over. From the yard next door. Over and over and over.
Now I have a rule about my fence. It's a fence. Don't peek at me through my fence and don't yell at me over the fence. This isn't the set for Home Improvement and I certainly don't want to be your Wilson. I bought a house with a privacy fence because I really, really like my privacy. So if you can see me, just kinda pretend like you can't.
But I'm a reasonable person. I know people cannot read minds and therefore, can't possibly know about my rule. I have one great neighbor, an awesome chick my age who brought me handmade bread wrapped in a green ribbon when I first moved in, delivered fresh pies when she worked at a pie shop in town, and brought healthy, delicious cookies for my baby's first birthday. She didn't need to be told about the rule because she thinks like me. She is quiet, she is responsible with her home, and she is respectful of my space and privacy.
Take the opposite of everything I just said, add about six more people, and you've got the neighbors on the other side. Recently this neighbor began dating an old friend. This friend has a young child, about Anya's age. She is sweet, but was officially breaking my rule.
Anya looked at me, knowing her Mama's nutty rule, and I told her to ignore the girl...my reasoning? The girl's parents will eventually hear her screaming over the fence and will tell her to come on over to talk to Anya like a real person. This did not happen.
After a few more minutes of hearing Anya's name called over and over, I began to feel my anger rise. All anyone can hear is this kid screaming over the fence. Yea, I could've let Anya call back and risk breaking my rule for all time, but no way. This is my peace zone. I had to defend it!
So I came up with a better (read: awful) solution. As the calls kept coming, the anger bubbled up, higher and higher, until suddenly, with rage simmering in my soul, I screamed, "STOP!"
The whole yard went silent. Her yard. My yard. No more screaming. It worked! I just had to scream at someone else's kid. Worst. Neighbor. Ever.
Anya eventually went out front to ride her bike. Within a few minutes, she was back at my side, asking if the girl and her parents could come to the party. Without thinking, I blurted, "No way, that'd be weird. Not happening. She can come by, but her parents? Uhhhh weird.....no."
Off trots my little girl.....to relay the message.....to go tell her little friend yes, you are allowed, but my mom said your parents.......are......not. Worst. Neighbor. Ever. Who does that? And I knew exactly how it would go down....Anya would go over there and obediently state exactly what I just said. She doesn't understand the insane social complexities created in her mother's whacked-out head. I was screwed.
The little girl came over. I tried to be really, really nice. I asked Anya what she said. "Exactly what you said, Mama. I told her she could come over and her parent's weren't allowed." Nailed it.
The two girls stayed for a few minutes and then ran back to the neighbor's backyard. Eh.
About an hour later it was time for sparklers. I went next door to grab the two girls. Of course the neighbor man was extraordinarily nice. Of course he gave the girls some fun firework poppers to bring over for everyone. Of course he talked about his new speakers that allowed him and his kids to listen to music outside without disturbing anyone else. And of course he let me pet his new husky puppy. Dangit.
You all know I love my hood (read why by clicking here).....but I am also impatient and unable to shake a grudge. I would never, for instance, let my dog sit outside for hours and bark, because I've been the new mom with a sleepless baby who needed to nap in the middle of the day with all the windows open because it was 100 degrees and air conditioning is too dag-gone expensive. One of my weaknesses, however, is pegging someone as an enemy and secretly barraging them with judgments and unfriendly behavior. I need to clean up my act. The guy was nice. He's loud, often shirtless, but nice.....even when I'm not.
So I came back to my yard feeling humbled. I made sure Anya's friend got extra sparklers.
I'll never be perfect, and chances are I will always be quick to judge someone who's irritated me in the past. But maybe I could ease up on the un-neighborly behavior a little bit, especially around my kids. This is America, the Land of the Free......but we've only gotten where we are because of the millions of unique people, diverse cultures, and over-the-fence screamers we have wrapped up in this beautiful, flawed country.
Happy Independence Day everyone :)