Calm, Cool and Committed

Three Moms and a Dude

Gender Bender

Have you ever pondered this question — “If my spouse had gender reassignment surgery, would I stay with them?”  My guess is that you haven’t.

Here at Calm, Cool and Committed, we have.  Mamma Fratelli and I decided to post our answers.  And, for good measure, we invited (well, I invited) a dissenting guest opinion.

Mamma Fratelli

“L-O-L-A Lola”

Could you stay with your spouse if he had a sex change?

Yes. Wait, no. OK yes. I would love to say, “Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt” because the sexual orientation component of the issue does not bother me. I’d love Bug whether or not I was sexually attracted to him. However, gender reassignment is not just a nip, a tuck, and a new wardrobe; there is a complete identity change. Not to mention, the impact that the hormones and the psychological stress would have on our marriage. Not only is there no easy answer to this question, there is more than one question to this question. Do I care if Doodle Bug and Sunny have two mommies? No. Do I care if our neighbors assume I’m a lesbian? No. Would I mind if my husband wore heels and went by the name Nancy? I don’t think so. Could I grow to enjoy a sexual relationship with a female husband? I’m not sure. Probably not. Could I stay with a spouse with whom I have an asexual relationship? Yes. Many people do it after their spouse suffers an illness, injury or simply old age.When we took our vows, we promised to stay together for better or for worse, through sickness and through health. If you look at these words like a legal contract, you can sway them in both directions. You could say that Gender Identity Disorder is a sickness and it would be my responsibility to care for and support Bug *through* it. Does that mean through as in he will get better and stay male? Or, does that mean throughout as in I am with him for the long haul? What about the argument that I vowed to stay with the man that I married as he stood before me at the altar that day? Would that mean that a major change such as a religious conversion, a new penchant for violence, or a change in sex would nullify that promise? Or, am I bound to stay with that new person because he is the same physical self? I just don’t know but as I understand it, the vow means that I will stay with him through better or worse *situations* not better or worse *character* or *actions*. Therefore, if he lost his job, I couldn’t leave him but if he decided to become a serial killer, I could. I guess the point is moot, though, because I do not believe that gender reassignment is wrong. There are many people who feel that they were born into situations that do not fit them and they take steps to change that. This just happens to be, arguably, the most extreme step. Is it wrong to drag your spouse and children through it with you? Probably. However, if society were more tolerant, people with GID would not feel so obliged to repress their true selves and they would not have to wait until they snap to get their surgery. Then, potential fiancés would have all of the facts before they made a commitment. For example, I took a graduate class with a young man who was born female. He was going through the hormone portion of the therapy and was very proud of his peach fuzz on his cheeks! He had a girlfriend at home that knew from the beginning of the relationship that her girlfriend would one day sprout a penis and become her boyfriend. I have to say that I admire and even envy their love a bit. To know that you love someone’s soul so much that you don’t care about the packaging is touching and beautiful. I don’t know if I am that strong. I fell in love with a man and I like that he is a man. Sure, it would be nice if he started to shave his armpits and embrace chick flicks but I like his masculinity. I like his callused hands, strong (flat) chest, big arms and scratchy chin. I am not attracted to lady bits and I’d rather not have it sprung on me that I have to become a lesbian by no choice of my own. BUT, I owe it to the *person* I love (man or woman) to at least give him a shot. So, my answer is “yes, I could, but I don’t know if I would.” That said, I’m very grateful that this was a hypothetical question.

Molar Mother

“Hubwife”

William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116  is an amazing piece of work.  It’s the perfect definition of love.  It’s so perfect that it was read at Hubby’s and my wedding.  The poem says, “Love is not love/Which alters when it alteration finds…”

The issue of staying married to a spouse who switches genders is really a question of what love is.  Is love contingent on one person being a certain gender?  I say no.

Sure, a big part of what initially attracted me to Hubby was his masculinity – his big muscles, his strong body, heck, even his hairy chest!  Yet, these aren’t the things that made me fall in love with him.

I know that hubby prefers being married to me over being married to an 80 year old woman.  But guess what.  One day I will be an 80-year-old woman (knock on wood), and I expect him to stay married to me.  I won’t be the 26 year old to whome he initially made his vows.  Inside, however, where it counts, I’ll be the same person.

If we were only to marry people who were physically attractive and appealing to us, I’d be married to Daniel Craig and Hubby would be married Emily Blunt.  Fortunately for Hubby and me (and maybe Daniel Craig and Emily Blunt), love looks past the body.

Sure, there are some things that MIGHT make me leave Hubby – cheating on me, joining a cult, becoming a Republican… but those are all things that would hurt me.  Hubby changing gender isn’t a hazard to me as a person.  And if identifying as a girl stops him from being hurt, then go for it!  I’ll stick with him.

Really Cranky Dad

“Why I Wouldn’t Stay Married to Molar Father”

When my wife first asked me if I’d stay married to her if she had gender reassignment surgery, I thought about it a minute and then said, “No.”
She was upset with me, which surprised me, especially given the purely hypothetical (as far as I know) nature of the question. I considered the question a bit more, but my answer was still no. Would I be friends with her? Sure. Would I hang out with her? Sure. But I wouldn’t stay married to her.

Of course because it’s changing sex organs we’re talking about, everybody’s first thought is that it’s about the physical act of sex. For me, that did factor into my answer, but not as much as you’d think. I mean, if my wife had a dehabilitating injury and we couldn’t have sex, I wouldn’t divorce her over it. (And yes, I understand two men can have sex, but that’s not really my thing.)

To me, the issue is one of honesty. I cannot fathom my wife wanting to be a man. If that happened, it would mean I didn’t know her at all. Not at all. Our lives together would have been a lie. Because, honestly, if she wanted to be a man then she wouldn’t have married me–or at least wouldn’t have married me without discussing this with me. Our physical sex is a big part of our identity. Why do you think they make people go through years of therapy before doing a sex change operation? So why would I be expected to stay married to a person who was fundamentally changed, not through some random act (like a chimpanzee attack that completely altered her body) or natural process (like aging, which wreaks its own havoc on our minds and bodies), but through a deliberate intention to become someone different?

Oh, and while my wife was berating me for my lack of fidelity to her fictional self who had a sex change, she told me she almost broke up with me when she found out I’d once voted Republican. I guess we all have our sticking points.

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Live and Let Die

By Mamma Fratelli

Life is beautiful. It is – hands down – the most important thing we have in this world.  It is a right, a blessing, a gift and it trumps absolutely everything else.  When we hear about a car accident or terrorist attack, the first thing we want to know is how many lives were lost.  We mourn those souls whether we knew them personally or not. We feel the void they left behind and shudder at the thought that it could have been one of our loved ones. Or us.  The loss of a life – any life – is a memento mori for us. Therefore, it can be particularly disturbing when someone chooses to end the game early.  Suicide, to some, is the most egregious of all sins.  I used to call it selfish.  And, it is. But, perhaps it should not be a sin or a crime. Perhaps it is just as much of a right as life itself.

When I was young, I heard the story of two children who walked home from elementary school to find their mother’s bloody body in the living room. She had put down a table cloth so that there would be minimal mess and left this world one weekday afternoon.  The real horror is that she knew that her children would be home before her husband.  I am still angry at that woman. How could she do that to her own babies?! What could be so terrible that you just throw your hands in the air and decide to give up, sell the farm, take the early bus and not look back?  How dare you leave your loved ones in agony because you were depressed? There are people fighting for their lives every second of the day. You want to tell that soldier in Iraq that your suburban life was just too hard? That young mother diagnosed with breast cancer would gladly take your troubles – and then some! Life is tough. Suck it up. Keep on trucking. You owe it to all the people who have invested in you and count on you to be there. Or, do you?

As I get older, my anger at this woman is starting to shift into anger for her.  She was sick. She did not have the luxury of clear analysis.  Her pain was just as real as someone who was suffering physically.  She, like a prisoner, was serving a life sentence. She was rotting slowly from the inside out and every breath was painful.  She simply did not want to be here. The horrific scar she left on her children notwithstanding, she had the right to clock out whenever she wanted to. It was, after all, her life. Her right. Her blessing. Not mine. I’m sure that if you caught her on a lucid day, doped her up with SSRIs and asked her outright if she wanted her children to find her laying in a pool of blood, she would say no. Of course not. Who would want that to be the image seared into their little minds? Who would want their memory to be woven with threads of pain, loss and fear? She probably would have rathered the opportunity to sit down with them and calmly explain her decision, tell them to study hard and be happy, kiss them goodbye.  She probably would have liked to tell her husband that she loved him and appreciated the good times, to tell him to find a good woman to be a mother figure for her babies and to spin bedtime stories out of their happy memories.  Then, she would slip into something comfortable and be left alone with her last thoughts, close her eyes and drift into a painless slumber. That is not an option. Suicide is illegal. It’s a sin.  No one would have allowed her to do that.

Take a moment to remember the absolute worst pain you have ever felt – physical or psychological.  Was it a car accident? A divorce? The loss of a loved one? A failure? An illness? Did the pain become more bearable eventually? Did you take medicine or talk to a counselor? Meet a new spouse or come to terms with your loss? If so, you are fortunate enough to have a healthy mind and a strong body. Imagine if that pain never ever subsided. What if the throbbing from the broken bone was only going to get worse with time? What if you were doomed to wake up every morning and face that bad news again, as sharp and fresh and painful as it was the very first time you heard it? What if all the comforts in this world were replaced with agony, all the happiness sucked out and the hole filled with depression? Would you damn anyone to that hell? Shouldn’t it be an option to get better, even if better means gone?

I think that we should de-stigmatize suicide. We get to decide when our meal ends, when our shower ends, when our day ends, when our hunger ends. Why can we not decide when our journey ends, too? I would like to see suicide clinics.  I imagine them to be brightly lit, peaceful places that value life and strive to allow you to enjoy yours.  They would have counselors and medical doctors that try to help you through your troubles first.  When you are of sound mind, they will help you make a decision – stay or go. It’s up to you. If you choose to stay – great! If you choose to go – also great. They would help you and your family communicate and understand one another. They would help you get your affairs in order and set up a payment plan to come out of your estate for the cost of your departure.  Then, when the time was right, you would decide who – if anyone – should be present. Your family? Your priest? Your dog? You would be able to choose where your last location on this Earth would be.  Snuggled in your bed? Outside with the wind rustling your hair? Sitting by a fireplace, listening to Sinatra? Whenever you were ready, you would depress the plunger on your IV and have full control over your last breath.  Why in the world should that be a crime? A sin? A stigma? If suicide clinics existed, those kids would not have had to live that nightmare.  There would be fewer people bearing the burden of guilt and unanswered questions.  Fewer scars. Fewer fears.  There would be more people living peacefully, knowing that they are here because they want to be.

Isn’t that what life is truly about?

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Have a Xanax‏

By Mamma Fratelli

I was called a b*tch twice today. Both times, it was by a male driver. One time was my fault-ish, the other time, definitely not.

The first name calling incident occurred when I was driving along, minding my own business and a 20-something guy on a cell phone ran a stop sign, forcing me to slam on my brakes. To add insult to potential injury, he screamed out the window for me to move and referred to me as a lady canine.

The second incident took place at an intersection with a notoriously long red light. I was turning left and did the pull-into-the-intersection-and-if-you-don’t-get-a-turn-go-while-the-lights-are-changing routine. I’m sure the legality of the maneuver is debatable but it is SOP around here. Well, today the traffic was backed up more than usual and the tail end of my car was still in the line of fire when the eastbound light turned green. The gentleman (and I use the term loosely) sitting in the pickup truck at the light must not have had power steering because he sure was mad that he had to maneuver around me a smidge. I guess I still had my dog costume on because he suggested that I, a puppy’s mama, be…ahem…copulated with.

I tried to let it roll off my back but the irony was not lost on me that I taught at a center city school for five years and nary once did I have the pleasure of being double dosed with the B word. In a simple day’s errands, though, i managed to piss off two strangers enough to get hit with it twice. After pondering the matter the rest of my drive, it hit me that the problem is so much bigger than an offensive coincidence.

Yes, I was in the wrong in one case, but I’d wager the pickup driver had made his share of poor judgments while driving and I hope he wasn’t cursed every time he did. The instant explosiveness of the other two drivers seems to reflect a growing problem in society today: everyone on the road is pissed. If someone tailgates, the driver in front brake checks him. Maybe he needs to get to the hospital. If one driver is about to back into another, the potential target lays on her horn. A simple beep would suffice. If a driver’s tires don’t break pavement the instant a light turns green, it sounds like the brass section of the London Philharmonic is tuning up behind him. Breathe, people. The thing about green lights is that they just keep coming all day long.

Why are drivers on the verge of a nervous breakdown? Is driving itself that stressful? Are we under pressure at work but instead of blowing up at our bosses, we take it out on strangers? Is the fact that the term road rage even exists a sign of a bigger problem in society?

I’d say yes to all of the questions above. I think the anonymity coupled with the potentially serious repercussions of driving mistakes serve as a lighter to a pre-existing fuse for some people. Driving is very frustrating by design. Hurry up and stop. Wait your turn. Lose your turn. Miss your exit. Hit construction. Rarely are we going anywhere that we don’t want or need to be within a certain time frame. The possibility of arriving late to work, missing a kid’s soccer game or simply wanting to finally prop up your feet after a long day are enough to get anyone’s fingers tapping at a red light.

So, how do we get everyone to do the Rodney and just get along? I’m not so sure there’s a solution. We have to accept that there are other people in this world and they are going places, too. Unless you’re headed to the ER or have to get The Football to the President, your destination is probably roughly as important to you as everyone else’s is to them. We would have to do a major overhaul to culture and society to eliminate that constant feeling of a looming deadline (that’s another blog post entirely!) so it’s safe to assume the problem is not going to resolve itself. What’s left to do? React? Or don’t? That’s up to you. I chose to give both men the biggest, cheesiest grin and wave that I could muster. I can’t change what happened but I can giggle to myself at the idea of the rude driver complaining to his buddy and answering the question, “then what did she do?” with “she smiled and waved.” I guess if you can’t stand at the red lights handing out Xanax, you have to get creative.

<;a href="http://http://www.aaafoundation.org/resources/index.cfm?button=agdrtext“>;Safe driving, everyone!

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SugarHoneyIcedTea‏

By Mamma Fratelli

DISCLAIMER: This blog is about swearing. It contains profanity. I am a linguist, therefore, much like a proctologist, I am not offended by my subject matter. Rather, I see it as something to be studied. That said, not everyone wants to be a proctologist nor does everyone want to read the F word on a leisurely coffee break. If I’ve just described you, gentle listener, please stop here.

It’s every parent’s nightmare. You pull up to daycare and instead of getting a happy account of all the fantastic ways that your child is just the best and brightest, you are met with a stone-faced teacher holding the carbon copy of today’s report. Timmy said “oh, shit!” on the playground. No! Not your kid! Where the hell did he learn such language?!

The question, really, isn’t where but why. What makes four letter words so appealing to toddlers and pre-schoolers? Why does he say “one, two, fwee” but pronounce “damnit” so beautifully? It’s all in the malignant nature of the disease.

CONSONANTS

Profanity has stood the test of time because of its design. Most swear words are short and consonant heavy, making them deliciously relieving to say. Think about it. If you touch a hot pan, what’s the first thing you do? You hold your breath and either let it out slowly or scream. That hard exhale makes you feel better. Don’t believe me? Slam you finger with a hammer and yell “AIR!” or “HOUSE!” It’s not as satisfying as the hiss and snap of “SHIT”, is it?

EMOTION

Children love things that get a reaction. Their life is fairly mundane and repetitive: scrambled eggs, finger paints, nap time… But, wow! Do Mom and Dad ever put on a show when Suzy dumps her chocolate milk on the rug or drops the iPhone in the toilet. Again. You are your child’s model for how to react in every situation and you certainly don’t do that loud, funny faced dance when you say the word “coffee” so that word must not be as special as “shit.”

PRESENTATION

Profanity often comes with an opening act. Something exciting happens right before the word is uttered, setting the stage for a perfect learning opportunity. Perhaps a police car put on its bright lights like they do on TV and actually followed Billy’s Dad’s car! How exciting! Now the boy is paying attention. Then, Dad implements the absolute supreme second language acquisition device: clear, isolated pronunciation. Some words are hard to learn because they come buried in long sentences or they have too many awkward syllables. If parents would just do something flashy to get kids to look then clearly and loudly pronounce each syllable of “refrigerator” in a total vacuum, more toddlers would be spouting off the names of kitchen appliances instead of simple stuff like “light.”

POWER

The tables have turned. Not only do four letter words often come with volume, emotion and a spectacular display of body language, Mom and Dad turn into begging, pleading, bribing fools when their cherubim imitate them. Pre-schoolers have never been offered all the cookies they could ever want for not saying “doggie” ever again. Grandma doesn’t clutch her pearls when kiddos say “dolly.” Kids are often at the bottom of the totem pole. If they can get their crimson-faced parents in time out, you betcha they’re going to do it!

OH, SHIT! WHAT NOW?!

You let it slip. Not you. Not Ozzie and Harriet. This is a no swearing house but dammit, that one just flew out! How do we keep a lid on our dirty family secret? First, let me digress. If you swear at home, you are not alone. Many parents let one fly here or there, especially if they didn’t have a sterile vocabulary before Junior arrived. Four letter words are like cockleburs, they get in the fabric of your speech pattern and are near impossible to dig out. So, step one is:

DON’T BE SO HARD ON YOURSELF

Relax. Beating yourself up will only put you in a sour mood. The human brain interprets all stress the same whether physical or emotional. It shuts down unnecessary functions like digestion and logic (and the language centers in the brain) in favor of the more limbic functions like roaring and gnashing teeth. If you can just shift the electrical activity back to your cerebral cortex, all will be well.

JUST KEEP TALKING

Switch off the limelight. Just bury the word in a pile of other boring concepts and Kiddo will quickly lose interest. The worst thing you can do is add emphasis to your slip up by creating another moment of dead air followed by the death sentence: please-don’t-ever-say-that!

BE COOL

Toddlers abhor the mundane. I feel for Gaylord Focker when his toe-headed nephew parrots back “asssssss hoooooole.” If the lad had said “window,” Gay wouldn’t have put on such a show and repeating it wouldn’t have been so delightfully entertaining. So, pretend like the kid said, “window” (and warn your house guests to do the same).

OLDER KIDS
What if your little ones aren’t so little? Be honest. Admit to them that swearing can be a sign of a poor vocabulary. Break out the thesaurus together and find some fun pseudo-swear words: “You curmudgeon! This is preposterous!” Make sure you also learn the definitions together! Then, hand over the power (they never outgrow that part). Every time they catch you saying a bad word, they get to “punish” you: make you do a silly dance, take them to the library, etc.

F THIS AND GOSH DARNIT

I don’t advise using sound-alikes in front of kids. Honestly, saying “Eff you!” has the same effect as “Fuck you!” Don’t believe me? Say it to your boss. Some euphemisms, or Granny Swears, are just part of our cultural lexicon and have taken on their own place in language: Darn it! Shoot! Geez! These all started as stand-ins for profanity. No doubt invented on the spot as some Colonial father touched a hot pan and said “Holy Shhhhhhhhhhhhh (think time) hhhhhhnikeys!” Yeah, his kid didn’t fall for it, either.

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Mama Baby Air‏

I don’t know if you can tell what you’re looking at, but that’s Doodle Bug, my two-year-old, sleeping with his hand on the side of my face. I couldn’t count how many people have referred to bed-sharing as a mistake when talking to me. Not as a judgement. Not as a criticism. Simply sharing a parenting decision they made or wish they had made differently: “bringing our daughter into our marriage bed was a huge mistake – totally ruined our sex life” or “I’m so glad I didn’t make the mistake of letting the kids sleep with me” or “Junior crawled into bed with us when he had the flu last month and now I can’t get him back into his own bed – huge mistake!!”

Every relationship is different and every family makes the best decisions they can given what they know and believe at the time. For us, bed-sharing is not a mistake at all. It’s a way of life and I don’t regret a single night. Well, alright. Maybe I regret the night Doodle Bug woke up and vomited all over me, but every parent has been puked on. I was just lucky enough to get it in the face. While I was asleep. In the grand scheme of things, though, the happy moments far outweigh the gross ones. There’s nothing like the cuddles and kisses throughout the night. My babies used to be a part of me and having them nearby just feels right. I feel complete. Being a working mom, I walk around all day without a vital organ. When I get back home, it gets reattached and I can breathe again. I want to soak up as many moments with my babies as I can before they’re pushing me away to spread their wings.

Sunny is only a month old and a lot of people ask if I plan to bed-share with her, too. Yes. However, I will never be asleep in bed with both Doodle Bug and her. A breastfeeding mother is biologically wired to sleep more lightly in order to keep watch over her infant; a toddler is not. So, how do we do it? Doodle Bug “reads” quietly in my bed while I nurse and rock Sunny to sleep. Once she’s drowsy, I put her in a co-sleeper (bassinet attached to my bed) and then crawl into bed with my toddler. When he’s out, Daddy-O moves him to his floor bed and Sunny gets in the big bed a few hours later when she wakes up to nurse. A perfect system? Nope. The best decision for us with what we know and believe right now? Absolutely.

Here. Let me see if I can explain it better in rhyme.

Doodle Bug

Mama Baby Air

I can barely see your face but i know you’re there

I lay here in the night and just think and stare

Your tiny whimpers dance in the air

Your baby breath rustles my hair

I should get to sleep but I really don’t care

My elbow is tingling from you laying there

I could wiggle free but I wouldn’t dare

This silent moment that you and I share

Flees too fast~ it isn’t fair

Your bitty lips, that tiny pink pair

Pucker and suckle as if milk were there

Your pudgy hand is tangled in my hair

There is a book and a doll under my foot somewhere

You have on one sock but I put on a pair

Not sure if this is your arm or your teddy bear

I’ll have a kinked neck in the morning but now I don’t care

Friends say, “You have a crib. Just put him in there”

But when I’m at work and you’re at daycare,

There’s a void in my arms and a blank in my stare

I rush home to soak up every moment you’ll share

And when the sun sets and you’re breathing dream air

I curl up around you like a mama bear

You do have a nursery down the hall somewhere

And some day soon I’ll sleep here; you’ll sleep there

The walls plastered in posters and rock music in the air

Dirty socks piled on the old rocking chair

My arms will ache for a hug, you’ll say, “Sure, I don’t care”

I’ll smile and thank you but my heart will tear

I’ll wish our moments hadn’t faded away with the air

I want to have savored every moment as a pair

Not losing one chance to sniff your soft baby hair

And at the end of the day, that’s why I bed share

-Mamma Fratelli

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Mourning the Mertzes

Every television show I can think of has a neighbor. Whether he’s quirky like Cosmo Kramer, nosey like Gladys Kravitz, or wise like Mr. Wilson, the Neighbor seems to be more than a character. He is a slice of Americana. No I Love Lucy episode was complete without a visit from Fred and Ethel Mertz and who would Eric Forman and Kevin Arnold fall in love with if it weren’t for their neighbors, Donna and Winnie?

When I was growing up, my neighborhood was bustling with kids my age. We had the Joneses on one side with four kids and the Smiths on the other with eight. The Turners had anywhere from four to ten foster kids any given year and the Harolds had two of their own and three adopted sons. The Deerbornes, well they had their own colony – 13 kids under their roof and a couple more at college. With all that mischief on the loose, there was always a parent standing on a porch yelling something at someone. Those overwhelmed parents, then, would congregate in someone’s yard and share a laugh over lemonade (that we were never allowed to sip…hmmmm). Birthday parties and Easter egg hunts were always a blast and a simple day of yard work used to turn into an outdoor town hall meeting.

I had a Norman Rockwell childhood. My neighbors and I were always an unidentifiable swarm of children that could be in anyone’s yard or raiding anyone’s pantry at any given moment. My mom used to buy double quantities of Tastykakes and Kool-Aid each summer as it was an unwritten rule that you fed whatever baby birds were in your yard when they started chirping about wanting a snack. My dad used to brag that for not having a garage, he had the most impressive collection of tools and yard equipment in town: Mr. Foster’s snowblower, Mr. Green’s power washer and a half dozen other fancy gadgets were community property. In return, you never knew who may be in the basement using my Dad’s radial arm saw. The kitchen rivaled any quilting bee in varieties of gossip and quiche recipes being exchanged. We had it all and all we had was a good old American Neighborhood.

When my husband and I started shopping around for our first home, the neighborhood played as much of a role in our decision making as the number of bedrooms or square footage of the basement. We wanted Doodle Bug & Sunny to have not only room to play, but playmates with whom they would share their entire childhood. When we picked this house, we scoped out the neighbors’ kids. We smiled when we saw yards that looked like satellite branches of Fisher Price’s R&D department. We walked hand in hand to the local playground and imagined Doodle Bug & Sunny throwing rocks in the pond with a half dozen other giggling children.

Now that we live here, we often wonder if the other houses are even inhabited. Maybe this is one if those nuclear test site neighborhoods like in the movie The Hills Have Eyes. Maybe the “neighbor lady” we saw peering out her kitchen window was an actress hired by the realtor. This is a ghost town. Neighbors drive by and slip into their garages not to be seen again until morning. The Fisher Price playhouse is sun faded but sits unused. My vision of sipping coffee in my brightly lit breakfast nook, chatting with one of the thirty-something women I’ve seen jog by has never come to light.

No one is neighborly anymore. There was no basket of baked goods on our porch when we moved in. No one has asked to borrow Husband’s chainsaw. We couldn’t smell grills firing up on the fourth of July. We ate more Peanut Butter Cups than we handed out on Halloween. I couldn’t even tell you my neighbors’ last names – any of them.

It is not just my neighborhood. My friends claim that they couldn’t pick their neighbors out of a crowd. One friend’s neighbor passed away and his house was sold before half the neighborhood even realized he was gone. What a lonely way to live.

What happened to our American Neighborhoods? Are we too busy? Too wary? Too WiFi? Who sits in our breakfast nooks with us? Who helps us name our treehouse clubs? Who shows up on Christmas Eve to help shovel the driveway? Who still leaves their porch light on for trick or treaters? Where have Fred and Ethel gone?

They are inside their air-conditioned homes watching TV shows and mourning the America that used to be.

–Mamma F

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