Neighbors

We had been ignoring her for over a year.  When our kids went out to play at nine-thirty on a hot summer morning, we pretended not to hear her groaning out the window, “Can you please keep it down?  We’re still sleeping in here.”  We played stupid at 4:00 on a weekday afternoon, as she hollered over the high cinderblock wall, “I’m trying to give a piano lesson here!”  We raised our eyebrows silently when she imitated three-year-old Benjamin’s happy shrieks from her side of the property line, but we never responded.

It was, however, a whole lot harder to ignore the note she left on my  windshield one Saturday morning.

“To our neighbors,” it read.  “Could you please try and remember that this is a family neighborhood.  Some families actually like to sleep in the morning.  The level of noises and loud shouting emanating from your home is completely unacceptable!  The entire neighborhood can hear you!  Pease keep your windows closed, or try to be more considerate of your neighbors by keeping the noises down in the future!!!”

I guess we shouldn’t expect an invitation to the block party this year.

Now, to be fair, that morning she just might have heard me hollering something along the lines of, “You asked for that sandwich, so you will need to sit there and eat it or there will be nothing else to eat till snack time.”  Setting aside for a minute that we let our kids eat peanut butter and jelly for breakfast if they want to, I suppose my neighbor did not particularly appreciate waking up to that moment of stellar parenting.  She was probably already up, come to think of it; our boys had been pummeling one another for at least forty-five minutes by that point.

Crappy disciplinarian though I was being, that note got my Mama Bear up.  The appropriate thing to do seemed to be to ignore my kids for a half-an-hour while I crafted a response.  A two-page response that detailed the things we have already done to limit the noise and listed the loud noises coming from her house, which include but is no way limited to her teenaged son bursting out with cringe-inducing opera singing late into the night.

“Perhaps you can do what we do and simply close your windows when you wish to sleep, as this is an urban neighborhood with houses close together,” I concluded.  “Remember that this is a family neighborhood, and there are children here.  Children do not come with an off button, unfortunately.”

I dropped it in her mail slot and rapidly walked away, glancing over my shoulder to make sure she hadn’t seen me.

This, I assumed, would be the end of it.  Until the next morning, when I looked out my window to see another note on my windshield.  Clearly, my neighbor does not realize that we also possess a mail slot.

Her response was surprisingly civil, despite little choice phrases like “child protective services.”  And, so, I took the high road.  Baking challah for our Friday night dinner, my eldest child and I braided a second loaf for her.

“Is it for our crazy neighbor?” he asked.

“You might not want to call her that to her face.  OK, kiddo?”

“Why we bringing her bread?” the three-year-old wanted to know.

“Because, Benjamin,” I replied, “you are the loudest person in the world and you wake her up.”

We went on over, carrying our loaf wrapped in a towel.  Fortunately, the door was opened by her housekeeper fighting to keep back the bevy of yapping dogs.  We handed over the bread and made our escape.  I spent the rest of the day dodging past her house, not wanting to talk to her, hoping she would carry on avoiding any actual face-to-face contact.

The next afternoon, we came home to find a small pot of roses on our front step.  It seems we have made peace, without all the bureaucratic hassle of calling in family services.

I put the roses in the window facing her house.  A window that now remains closed until at least 8:30 in the morning.

19 responses to “Neighbors

  1. You are true lady! What a wonderful story. She’s quite lucky she isn’t my neighbor. I have a feeling we are a much louder house. She’s lucky to have a neighbor who makes challah.

    CPS though? what’s would be the complaint. My neighbor’s children are noisy?

  2. See, this is what’s nice about having a large yard. Of course then you have more yardwork, but you can scream all you want. Glad you guys came to some resolution. 🙂

    People do call CPS about noise. I used to get those calls a lot and it usually let to me discovering that kids were kept inside all day and got all stir crazy and everybody yelled at everybody.

  3. Oh well done! And well done the Crazy Neighbor Lady for responding so well. I woke up to news full of random violence and acts of cruelty; my Monday was just about over by 6:30 so this little bit of peace in our time is just what I needed to hear.

  4. Challah and roses–how beautiful.

  5. That was incredibly civil of you. I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been as nice, and we would now be speaking to lawyers. Your way worked much better.

  6. Did you ever know that you’re my hero?

  7. wow, I was not expecting that ending – usually it is very very hard to argue with crazy. Good luck. We live in a very urban neighborhood too but noise isn’t so much an issue as is an utter lack of privacy when outdoors. My next house will be in the woods somewhere, where I can get the paper in my bathrobe and my dog can run.

  8. Glad it worked out well and non-Jerry-Springer!

  9. Blessed are the makers of real bread and real peace!

  10. Challah will solve anything.

    I cringe everytime you talk about your neighbor though. My boys are crazy little jumping loud mouths, and my girls were not much better at this age. And we’re on a second-floor condo. Neighbors have hated us, and I haven’t blamed them.

  11. Wow, what a story. i’m glad you made peace – our world could use a bit more. I wonder if you could manage to bring some challah over to me on Friday nights? just asking…

    Oh, and some muffins would be good too.

  12. I’m not even sure what I would have done. Situations like this make me sick to my stomach. However, I think you handled it beautifully. In fact, maybe now I DO know how to handle it after all.

    Sadly, I have never baked challah, though. Perhaps I should try it, just in case.

  13. WOW. That turned out better than I would have ever guessed. Hooray! 🙂

    Remind me to tell you sometime about the neighbor who called CPS on my mom. Because my sisters and I were barefoot in the rain. Good times.

  14. Wow. That’s beautiful.

    But CPS? Really? Argh.

  15. Well, that proves that you really do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar! Although she sounds like a difficult person to try to be sweet to! What kind of person mocks a three year old’s happy screams???

  16. Cheeky Monkey

    You are a far better person than me, Miss Emily. Not that I needed this post to prove it.

  17. Not sure I could have done it but I applaud you just the same. But after the bread & roses exchange, I bet you both feel a little better. I probably would still be stewing about the first note left on my windshield. Was that her first (overt) way of discussing the noise thing with you?

  18. Wow. Truly inspiring!

  19. never underestimate the power of warm baked goods.