Friday, January 23, 2009

Love thy neighbor--anyway

My sister recently moved into a new neighborhood and had what we shall call a slight disagreement with one of the neighbors. It had to do with children as most neighborhood arguments tend to do. The woman's son was bullying my niece, so my nephew jumped in to defend his sister. Then the neighbor jumped in to defend her son. Then my sister jumped in to defend both children. Then the husband jumped in to defend his wife. Sort of like the song Farmer in the Dell.

My sister was, of course, horrified by it all. But, really, it is nothing new. Love thy neighbor has always been a tough one. Growing up, my family had our share of neighborhood disagreements. I always knew when Daddy started frantically wrapping his knees, something was about to go down.

It seemed most of ours had to do with dogs.

My favorite little dog, Waggy, was a dachshund mix who protected us like a Doberman. Once he barked at my neighbor, so he planted his boot right in Waggy's ribcage. Funny what people do when they think nobody's looking. Waggy responded by biting him-hard. I was just a little girl, not a very credible witness, and my parents had to fight pretty hard to prove he wasn't vicious and shouldn't be put to sleep.

Another time, the neighbor on the other side of us took in a huge Alaskan Malamute. He was as wild as a wolf and terrorized us all. I was once stuck in the treehouse for hours with the dog barking and snarling down below. When I didn't show up for dinner at 5:00, my parents grew concerned and found me. My dad "convinced" the neighbor to get rid of him shortly thereafter.

No matter what happened, though, no matter whose kid messed up the garden or whose dog snapped at whom, we were neighbors. Somehow despite our differences, I still remember taking turns having dinner at their houses, seeing Mom gossip at the fence and playing softball, adults and kids, in our backyard.

One day, our next door neighbor's three-year-old son went missing. It was only for a day, but what a long day it was. Our entire neighborhood, friend and foe, parents and children, combed the woods looking for him. His mother was frantic, absolutely beside herself.

We called his name over and over, until, finally, well after dark, several dads found him, deep in the woods in a broken down cabin that we weren't supposed to go near. It was a cold night but keeping him warm was his dog, a furry mutt that I'm sure someone had complained about at one time or another.

We went home that night holding each other tighter and vowing to love thy neighbor a little more. And, despite the fact that we may not know our neighbors' names or like their barking dog, I don't think that has changed much today.

1 comment:

Angela McRae said...

Wow! I love to hear stories where they actually find the child alive!