Oprah says we should reach out to our neighbors. And because Oprah is always one to practice what she preaches, she sets the example by throwing lavish dinner parties for her neighbors complete with celebrity chef and Michael Buble and hires a celebrity gardener to landscape their balconies.
I want to like Oprah. But something about her 400 carat diamond earrings makes me leery.
And she doesn't know my neighbors.
On one side I have the senile widow who likes to call the cops on us for pretend grievances. On the other side of her is the manic depressive housewife who flashes widow lady from her front yard whenever she feels threatened. Across the street from her is the middle-aged, hot tempered wannabe rock star who sings bad karaoke from his garage till the wee hours of the morning.
I have a theory that Oprah had her neighbors balconies beautified so she wouldn't have to see the less-than-glamorous exteriors on her way into work every morning. She only did this for the neighbors facing her studio. Of course, she did give the rest of the people in the building gift cards from Lowe's so they could do it themselves, but they could just as easily go get a new grill or a shower curtain or plastic pink flamingos, and really, why would she care?
I have a new friend who also homeschools her children. Yesterday we met at the park and let the children run amok in that crazy, carefree way kids do when it's 78 glorious degrees and the sun is shining. As it is with most new friends, she has been somewhat guarded, not feeling free to be herself completely until she's felt me out more. But yesterday, she let her guard down a bit and I found she has a pretty good sense of humor, as well as that other thing a lot of us women have...criticism.
Can someone tell me why we love to talk about other women? I'm not saying I'm above it. It's true. I have critiqued people, especially other mothers, behind their backs. And these are people I like.
But I'm tired of it.
While we sat in the shade and watched the kids, a little girl - two-ish - bumped her mouth on a toy. It didn't look like a hard bump, but the girl screamed that scream little ones do when something really hurts. Her mother, who looked to be a child herself, wasn't overly panicked, but scooped her up and patted her curly little head. But suddenly she turns, quickly grabs her backpack and runs for the nearest bench. And as she turns, I see the blood.
I have three kids. I'm no rookie. But this was a good amount.
This poor woman is searching her backpack frantically for something to wipe away the blood while all the other moms stand there and watch, some of them even making snide comments about overreacting. I grab my water bottle and run to her. The toddler is screaming and slapping away her mother's hands as she tries to see what has happened. I offer her the bottle, asking, "Can I help?" and she takes it without answering. She has blood all over her shirt and she is shaking. She begins gathering her things, hurriedly trying to get to the car and carry her hysterical child. Again, I offer to help, maybe carry something, but she is terrified and she rushes off, ignoring me, perhaps even wondering if I think she is a bad mom. I don't take it personally.
Oprah may be on to something, but I think her approach is misguided. Good deeds are admirable, even if it's only a practically empty bottle of water when your child is bleeding as opposed to hiring Michael Buble. But how would her neighbors have felt about an intimate lunch without TV cameras? Or a phone call? Or even having her remember their names?
I'm no saint. I just want to connect. I just want to be me and know when I screw up, the person next to me understands. I'm not interested in finding other's faults so I don't have to think about my own, though I am sure there will be times I fall into that trap.
I'm trying to be friendly to the senile widow and not think about the nights I have lain awake, worried she might call the authorities and tell them I'm abusing my kids.
And yesterday, I even waved to the wife of karaoke man. I heard he lost his job.
Maybe that's a start.