Wednesday, October 13, 2010

All That Was Good

It was a sunny Friday afternoon when the neighbor and I stood on the sidewalk and were surrounded by all that was good in the neighborhood.

The little girl’s blonde hair was a blur when she flew by on the bike she had just learned to ride. A brand new Spider Man costume ran by with a happy little boy inside. The teenage boy mowed a lawn that wasn’t even his own. At the end of the street the toddlers giggled. Their mothers talked of trading babysitting and trading recipes. The man up the street was underneath his car, changing the oil. The man down the street was washing his car. His son was perfecting his skateboarding tricks. A jogger ran by and waved. A calico cat took a bath in the center of the road. Three big dogs trotted by, dragging their owner by a leash. You could hear the soccer practice at the nearby school.

All the grass was green because of last week’s rain. Next spring we would all have iris in our yards because one neighbor had shared her large bunch. One family would have apple pie that weekend, made from the apples that were shared by their next door neighbor. A 15 year old girl planned how she would wear her hair for the upcoming homecoming dance. She wondered if the neighbor girl she’s known since she was 4 years old was going to homecoming too. An elderly man, two houses up, said goodbye to the neighbor who had checked in on him. Some third grade girls ran to the neighborhood park to hang upside down on the monkey bars. The neighbor who always takes care of the park wondered if it might need some new bark. You could smell the barbeque from someone’s backyard. Another neighbor was finishing up the potato salad. Tonight, the neighbors would gather.

It was a sunny Friday afternoon when the neighbor and I stood on the sidewalk and were surrounded by all that was good in the neighborhood.

It was that same sunny Friday afternoon when the TV news reporter came to our neighborhood and stood on the sidewalk with the neighbor and I.

“Have you heard about the shooting?” she asked.

Have you heard about the horrible things and the awful stuff and the ugliness and the chaos?

Did you hear it was your neighbor?

Your neighbor was shot.

Your neighbor is dead.

Standing on that sidewalk, in the middle of our neighborhood, the neighbor and I knew that none of what the reporter had just said would ever make any sense to us.

You see, our neighbor was a big part of all that was good in the neighborhood.

It was past my bedtime on a dark Friday evening when I turned on the late night news. I saw my neighborhood on TV. The little girl’s blonde hair was a blur off in the distance as she rode her bike down the street. The grass was just as green from last week’s rain. You could hear a dog barking.

I heard the reporter’s voice coming from my TV.

“Neighbors say they are shocked. Neighbors say he was a good man.”


Monday, October 11, 2010

Cowlick Surrender

The boy knew it was futile to run from me. Like every other morning of the year, I was armed with a spray bottle of water, a tube of hair gel and a comb. Like every other morning of the year the boy attempted escape.
On this day however, the boy knew I would win. Today those cowlicks would be tamed, for today, was school picture day.

When he woke up on the morning of his school pictures the boy was already resigned to wearing an itchy collared shirt. He was not, however, happy about having his hair combed. The boy didn’t believe in combing his hair preferring instead to, “show the world my personality!” The two cowlicks the boy was born with guaranteed his hair would always have personality.

When I dropped the boy off at school that morning I had claimed victory over the cowlicks. The boy’s hair was combed and mother approved. I had a smile on my face as I proudly watched my handsome boy approach his group of friends. The boy spoke. His friends laughed and pointed at the boy’s head. I watched as the boy’s friend put both of his hands in the boy’s hair and ruined my hard won cowlick victory. I put on my angry face, put one hand on my hip and gestured at those boys with the wagging index finger on my other hand. The boy, half embarrassed and half annoyed, smoothed his hair down as his group of friends giggled. My cowlick victory was still intact.

It would not have been my choice to schedule the boy’s school pictures immediately after PE class. The boy ran hard in PE. The boy sweated. When the boy left PE his hair was no longer mother approved. The cowlicks had reasserted control and the boy’s personality was in full view. The experienced ladies helping the photographer took one look at the boy’s hair and knew it was not mother approved. They grabbed a comb and attacked the boy’s hair. The cowlicks fought back. The photographer called the boy’s name.

But, the comb was stuck.

The helper ladies, wide eyed and panicked, stared at the boy. The boy, wide eyed and unconcerned about their worry, stared back.

And as the photographer called the boy’s name again he turned to find the boy’s sweaty hair, wound forever around a black plastic comb, the entire mess shooting straight up out of the boy’s head. The boy’s personality was shining in full glory. It was not mother approved.

“So, how were your school pictures?” I asked the boy when he arrived home from school.

“Oh they were great!” the boy said. “Except I had PE right beforehand and my hair got sweaty and messed up and those ladies tried to comb it and the comb got stuck in my hair and 6 people tried but none of them could get it out."

I instantly regretted purchasing the more expensive picture packet with those extra 5x7’s. It sounded as if the boy’s pictures were not going to be mother approved.

The boy continued, “But you don’t have to worry mom, I think my pictures will turn out ok. After those ladies cut the comb out of my hair, most of it didn’t stick up very far anymore!"

Stunned into silence by this hair cutting news, I realized I had no choice. I raised my white flag and surrendered, permanently, to the undeniable power of the cowlick.

Check This Out!

A bunch of important publications named the novel, Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon, one of the best books of 2009. I couldn’t agree more. If you like mystery, suspense and plot twists, then this page turner is for you. I initially thought that Await Your Reply’s topic of identity theft sounded a bit dry. I was wrong. I couldn’t put the book down. So go make up a big pot of chili or a nice double recipe of casserole. Because your children will need to eat while you’re reading and you’re not going to want to stop and cook. Not that that happened to me…..ahem.