I’m a good person. Honestly. So why do I feel the need to tell you that? Because this week, of all weeks, it’s not so evident.
Things have changed. On a dime. You see, a minister and his wife have moved in next door.
Sigh. Where to begin . . .
It all started innocently enough. My previous neighbor, Karen, is a single mom. One who needed to downsize as her youngest went off to college. While sad to see her go, we understood. Karen had been a good neighbor who understood the pressures of working, raising kids, and the challenging moments the combination of those tasks could involve.
Enter new neighbors. A lovely couple. Very calm. Very quiet.
My family, while great—not calm. Not quiet. A tad crazy. We are a combination of Cuban, Colombian, Scotch-Irish tempers. We love each other dearly but we’re at the very least a combustible combination.
You get the picture yet?
I was raised Roman Catholic so priests ranked next only to Mom & Dad, and sometimes, outranked them, in my upbringing. While as an adult I’ve given up the whole authority figure worship, I still have a bit of a hard time being totally myself around—a MINISTER, for Pete’s sake.
This is a man who counsels the wretched, prays for the sick, marries the young and hopeful. A man who preaches from the pulpit to advise people on how to become closer to God and grow into better people.
So, as I gently coax my son to continue practicing his guitar (“ . . . AND I MEAN IT THIS TIME. NO LEGOS, NO BIRTHDAY PARTIES, NO DESSERT IF I DON’T HEAR ODE TO JOY ON THAT GUITAR THIS MINUTE . . .”, I see my neighbor outside my open window—possibly hearing me. And I immediately try another tack. “Sweetums, you see, guitar lessons are just one of the many things we need to power through in life in order to reach our goals. We love you so much, lambkins, we just want you to succeed. And it starts with playing these chords—right now.”
As I get out of the car to yet again move the mountain of toys in my parking spot in the garage (“HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU IF YOU DON’T PUT AWAY YOUR TOYS I’M GOING TO GIVE THEM TO POOR CHILDREN IN CHINA? THEY WOULD PROBABLY TAKE CARE OF THEIR TOYS. HOW MANY TIMES . . . “) and that’s when I see the minister’s wife at her kitchen window. “Boys, you are turning into fine young men. But fine young men keep their belongings where they go. Everything in its place.”
I really have no chance to turn into Dr. Jekyll with these two next door. I’m becoming a permanent Mr. Hyde. Which is not such a bad thing, I guess.
I am, however, worried about getting through the homework (approximately 2,600 hours of it, at 13 years of at least an hour per night), puberty and curfew with these model citizens right next door. I will need some occasional moments of humanity in which my frustration makes me appear less than Mother Teresa.
I’m sure it does not help our image that my children’s father sometimes relives his youth in the car, pulling in with the melodic sounds of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” wafting from the car windows. Or that I may have sounded just the tiniest bit like a seasoned truck driver when I dropped the garbage can on my foot in the driveway last week.
I’ve promised to invite this couple over for dinner in the upcoming weeks. Am trying to fit that into a week where we’ve A) been to church, B) put the kids to bed early for maximum best behavior and C) actually been able to clean our house. (Is it cleanliness that’s next to godliness? I think that’s how it goes . . . )
Who knows? We may be an entirely new family a few months from now. I’m just hoping they stay long enough for us to reap the full benefit of their presence. And if they sell before then, that it is not to Hell’s Angels or some other questionable influence. I’m starting to like this new me . . .