And Who Is My Neighbor?

This morning the five-year-old was first, in the kitchen just before nine. The back door screeched and slammed, and the kids sang out “Hi Lily!” without looking up from their oatmeal. Lily sat up for a piece of toast, and the phone rang. It was Laura, just my age and with the haircut I’ve always wished I could pull off: did I have any tampons, could she bring me dinner tonight, and would Elena and Jack like to go to playgroup with Lily this morning? I did, she could, and they certainly would, so the kids finished up and scooted under the back fence with a little brown bag in hand.

The baby napped poorly, so I didn’t get much work done on my Julius Caesar talk, but I started my laundry and enjoyed the stillness until the back door squealed again a little after eleven. All three kids tumbled in, sandy and ready for lunch: yes, Lily could stay for scrambled eggs and bananas and otter pops on the patio. Lily and Laura left for the market afterward, and my kids played Perfection and Candyland like angels while Mara slept and I finished transcribing my notes. Just as Elena began nagging at the computer to ride bikes across the street, Lily came streaking across the back lawn in her swimsuit and dripped at the door: could Elena and Jack come play in the hose? Jack wasn’t sure at first, but when he saw the girls heading for the fence he made up his mind to go.

I nursed the baby on the couch with the Pottery Barn and Trader Joe’s catalogs, then scanned the introductory materials to the play in my Riverside Shakespeare. After a while my kids tumbled in, Jack damp and ill-tempered and Elena still wanting to ride bikes, so I updated the laundry in the basement, treated Jack’s tantrum (rather unsuccessfully) with fruit snacks, and called Laura: did Lily want to come to the playground with us? She did, and a few minutes later I was shepherding four kids, all shod and mostly clothed, across the street to the schoolyard. The girls traded off on Elena’s bike for a while, then the three of them made nests with sticks and sweet gum balls in the dustpile while I rocked the baby on the swingset through the tall shadows of the oaks.

About dinnertime I brought the kids home and tossed the dirty ones in the tub—the load just out of the drier happened to have a pair of Lily’s underwear in it—and then all hell broke loose. Laura called: her realtor was on the phone and there was a house she must see this minute, but she was watching the RS president’s three kids, so could I give everybody dinner over there while she stepped out? I put Mara in the backpack and we trooped over. The five big kids ate pasta, salad and bread while I walked the two babies around the house to combat evening fussiness, then Laura came back—the house was no good, against the railroad tracks—and the kids sat in front of a movie while we ate together in the dining room, chatting about her new green glassware and whether or not we like musical theater.

Dave walked in—to two women and seven children under the age of six, not what he was expecting—right as the babies’ crabbiness peaked, so I cleared the table and then cleared out with my three. John is on call tonight, so at home I supervised cleanup and teeth and stories and prayer and—a huge spider appeared on the wall above the bunkbed. I called Laura: could Dave come kill it? He could, and did, and left just before nine.

15 comments for “And Who Is My Neighbor?

  1. May 24, 2006 at 7:56 am

    The neighbor is the one who will come over to kill a spider. All that other stuff is easy to do. Jus’ teasing. I just wanted to magnify the importance of that particular duty, since it is one of the few sole-assigned tasks in my marriage. My wife FEARS spiders, HATES spiders.

    What a great post Rosalynde. Best one at T&S in awhile, if I might say so.

  2. Mary
    May 24, 2006 at 8:29 am

    I agree – the spider killer wins. Though supplying your neighbor with tampons gets points too. I love this post!

  3. May 24, 2006 at 8:43 am

    Would-be feminist Alanis Morissette ruefully observes that one of the life lessons she can teach you, based on her own ingrained habits, is “How to defer to men in solveable predicaments.” ;->

    My wife not even aspiring to feminism, it’s a predicament that’s mine for the duration. If she isn’t paying too close attention, I usually solve it lazily with the Black & Decker hand-vac with narrow edge attachment. (For some reason, she finds the entombed creature’s unseen but imagined crawling just as distressing…)

  4. Adam Greenwood
    May 24, 2006 at 9:10 am

    Very sweet.

  5. annegb
    May 24, 2006 at 10:02 am

    Lovely, Rosalynde, as usual.

  6. May 24, 2006 at 10:20 am

    Nice. Thanks.

  7. May 24, 2006 at 10:58 am

    … and yet you accomplished nothing all day!

    Isn’t it insidious how we undervalue the work of mothers?

  8. Kevin Barney
    May 24, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    Wonderful, Rosalynde! What a vivid image of a whirlwind day in the life.

  9. Elisabeth
    May 24, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    Great post, Rosalynde! Your day makes me jealous. I loved the image of little Lily streaking across the garden in her swimsuit and dripping on your back steps. Brings back fond summer memories of playing in the sprinklers with neighborhood friends.

    And I don’t mind spiders, but I have a preternatural fear of dusty old moths who never watch where they’re flying and creepy cockroaches. EEEK!

  10. meems
    May 24, 2006 at 11:54 pm

    In all seriousness: you have an idyllic life. I love it.

  11. WillF
    May 25, 2006 at 12:37 am

    I liked it, although it is a tad bit hard to follow because I couldn’t tell if Lily was your daughter or your neighbor’s daughter for the first few sentences. But then maybe that is the point.

  12. Heather O
    May 25, 2006 at 10:50 am

    Hey, does this mean your neighbor is moving? We could have come and lived in YOUR neighborhood? Dang, what an opportunity missed. Sounds awesome. I want to swim in a pool and have otter pops on the patio, too.

  13. May 25, 2006 at 11:02 am

    I like spiders. It is cats that give me the willies. Squish them all, I say!

  14. Ben H
    May 26, 2006 at 9:57 am

    I’m thinking about buying a house. How do I shop for neighbors like this? The ads never seem to list that part.

  15. Kaimi Wenger
    June 7, 2006 at 11:34 am

    I never did thank you for this post, Rosalynde. It was a great post, and it made me think, again, that it would have been terribly nice if you had ended up staying in San Diego for a little while longer — long enough for us to be real neighbors, and share books and shacks and playdates with the kids.

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