2003 by Cindy Robert
This is a story I wrote one summer when I tried to recapture a dream of my childhood, only to find that some dreams are better left unattained!
Do you remember back when you were a kid, the neighborhood mom? Every self-respecting suburban neighborhood had one. She was the mom that every child wished their own mom were more like. Her house always smelled of fresh baked cookies, and chocolate cake. Never could you detect the pungent odor of stuffed cabbage or stewed tomatoes.
At Halloween she never passed out apples or leftover Valentine candy. She'd have chocolate and that hard gum your parents never allowed you to have. She didn't just give you one piece; she'd give you a whole hand full. And if you went back twice, she wouldn't give you that look that adult’s reserve for annoying little children.
In the wintertime, she always had hot mugs of cocoa ready to wrap frozen fingers around. It wasn't the instant mix like we had in our home but the real stuff with plenty of marshmallows. Hers was the first house to be decorated for the holidays and the last to take them down.
She was the only mom in the neighborhood who would run through the sprinkler with you, in the front yard no less. She was even known to play a game of hide and seek from time to time. And if you got to playing and forgot about the time, she would call your mom and smooth things over so that you wouldn't be in quite so much trouble when you got home.
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a mom. Not just any mom, the best mom, I wanted to be 'Neighborhood Mom.' Even when I was approaching my teens and it was no longer cool to hang out or even be seen with a mom, any mom. It was still on my mind all through high school, although I would never admit to it. For one thing women were supposed to aspire to be President or join the marines. Motherhood was demoted to the sidelines. The other reason being, that it tended to scare off prospective dates. There is nothing a teenage boy likes to hear less than his girlfriend telling him that she plans on having six kids by the time she is twenty-five.
I'm happy to say that I didn't achieve my goal of having six kids by the time I was twenty-five. Instead, I have three and am fighting off forty.
By the time my first child came along I had forgotten all about my dream of becoming 'Neighborhood Mom.' Instead I was 'Super Mom,' juggling family and career. Gone were the days of neighbors talking at the backyard fence. My husband and I, like so many other couples, were just too busy for neighborhood socialization. After living in the same house for over seven years, the only way that we knew any of our neighbor’s names was by their mailboxes.
When our next two babies came along, it was no longer financially sound for me to continue to work. Translation: I didn't make enough to cover day care. I was now a stay at home mom.
I was trying to figure out how much longer before my youngest would be starting school, (1,569 days), when I glanced out the back window to check on the kids. They looked like prison inmates as they clung to the fence, their little faces pressed into the wire mesh. Curious I stepped outside to see what had captured their attention. On the other side of the fence was a boy about the same age as my oldest. All my 'Neighborhood Mom' fantasies came rushing back. I asked the young man if he would like to come over and play. I gave him enough pop and junk food that I hoped to keep him happy, yet not make his mother to irate. I wanted him to come back, I had plans! I spent the rest of the day, until my husband came home, making lists. Then it was off to the stores. I bought all sorts of outdoor games, a variety of crafts, a drawer full of Kool-Aid, and a freezer full of Popsicle’s.
The next morning I woke up bright and early, eager to begin my lifelong dream. I hummed a little tune as I mixed the Kool-Aid. I did a little dance as I put together the badminton game. I stopped myself just short of arranging flowers on the picnic table, which was now set up to do a number of creative and natural crafts.
I had barely finished when the little boy from yesterday
showed up. Before I had a chance to show him my handiwork and bask in his
admiration, the doorbell rang. It was another child asking if he could
play, then another and another.
By nine o'clock that morning I had twelve children in my backyard. I came outside; armed with Kool-Aid to see what activities they had chosen to engage in first.
They had dug a hole. I don't know how it got started, and I'm sure that I didn't give my permission (but that's okay, because it wasn't asked for). It happened so quickly. One minute I had a fairly nice looking yard, the next, the beginnings of the Grand Canyon. I watched in horror as the hole was growing by the second, (were these industrious diggers the same kids who couldn't take out the garbage?). They were having fun and I hated to do it, but I had to maintain control. A good 'Neighborhood Mom' always lets them know who's in charge.
"That's enough guys." Notice my use of 'guys' instead
of kids. Cool huh? "You can't go digging holes wherever you want. Besides,
you are getting all dirty.
What are your moms going to say?" This last was added to show that I was different from other moms. I have to admit they were very agreeable about the whole thing. They asked if I could make them some more Kool-Aid while they cleaned up outside. They didn't want to get the house dirty, such thoughtful little angels.
I made cherry Kool-Aid, a universal favorite, and feeling generous I grabbed the 250 count box of Popsicle’s. I stepped outside and froze. Good thing that I did because an inch farther and I would have been hit by a mud missile.
It seems that the darlings had turned the water on to clean up and discovered that dirt and water make mud. The hole in my yard was now a swimming pool for pigs. There was mud everywhere. One kid was rolling in it, another appeared to be giving herself a mud facial, my one-year-old was filling her diaper up with it.
As I saw it, I had two choices. I could either put a stop to it right then and there or I could be the mother I always dreamed of being and join in. I did neither; I stepped back into the house closing the door behind me and watched them from a window. I learned a lot of things that day. Among them was the fact that I wasn't a kid any longer. While I enjoy playing with my children, I prefer to do so as a parent, not as a schoolmate. After all, they will have many friends in their lifetime, but only one mom.
After about an hour, I decided that enough was enough. There wasn't a clean spot to be seen. The picnic table that I had so lovingly set up just that morning was completely covered in mud. The brand new badminton net was dripping with it. Cups that had once held cherry Kool-Aid were now being used to make mud castles.
I had turned the water off when it appeared that my backyard
was about to flood the whole neighborhood, but I turned it back on to hose
Though dripping wet most went home fairly clean, considering what they had looked like just minutes before. One little girl started crying when I turned the hose on her. It seems that her mother had given strict orders not to get wet. I guess being caked with mud was okay.
When I had finished hosing everybody off, I announced that it was clean up time. I have never been able to make so many kids disappear so quickly. I scooped the remaining ones. Which luckily happened to be my own, and followed the trail of footprints into the house. I stopped at the door before going in, (unfortunately the footprints did not), and looked around the yard. No battleground in history had ever witnessed more carnage.
What was I going to tell my husband? He was bound to notice next time he went to cut the grass and there wasn't any. I was going to have to apologize to my neighbors; I didn't remember the Cravat's pool ever having that swampy bog look before. The Steven's, who lived on the other side, probably wouldn't be feeling real neighborly towards me when they saw their dog, Pookie. Evidently poodles aren't very agile at dodging mud missiles. On the bright side, neither of them had to worry about watering their lawns for a long, long time.
Was it worth it? There is no doubt in my mind that those kids had a great time, that day was possibly the highlight of their summer. I'd like to think a few of them will remember it for years to come and maybe, because of that day, one of them will grow up and have dreams of becoming a 'Neighborhood Mom.' Then I would feel as though I had accomplished what I had set out to do, pass the torch, and in the process exacted some small amount of revenge. Even though I had a six-year-old daughter, that day I believe I became a true mother.
After the first day I was ready to step down and allow someone else to fulfill their fantasy of becoming 'Neighborhood Mom.' It wasn't to be, I was marked. It was the longest summer of my life. By the time the kids went back to school in the fall I had enough Kool-Aid points to get a new house and enough Popsicle sticks to build a fence all the way around it.
Summer is once again fast approaching, but this time I'll be ready for them. Next to the hole that still remains in the backyard, I have put up a sign that reads, "SINK HOLE-KEEP FAR AWAY." I have also wrapped police tape around the fence. To be on the safe side, I have installed double locks on all my doors and hung heavy drapes on all the windows. If this fails, I have a back up plan. Pack up the kids and go to Grandma's.
One of the other things that I learned that day was that some fantasies and dreams are better left unattained.
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