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.