My Sunday ritual watching NFL football was in full-swing when I heard a bang, bang, bang on my front door. I assumed it was one of the children trying to get inside. I opened the door casually with a steaming mug of hot chocolate in my hand. There he stood. He was my angry neighbor who’s mammoth in size compared to my 5’4’’ stature. He began his tirade. “Are you going to parent your kids or do I need to call the police?” I shrugged my soldiers and told him to do what he had to do. I don’t respond well to assholes.
This wasn’t my first encounter with a man who’s been anything but neighborly since he moved in a year and a half ago. The first time he came to my door was when Peter had stolen a green, rectangular box covering for cable wires from his yard. I don’t know why Peter took the box except to fill it with rocks and store it in his room like other possessions he liked to hoard. The man didn’t introduce himself before he lit into me and my parenting and my “mean-spirited” son. I cut him off by explaining that Peter had autism and hadn’t intentionally targeted him. He returned to his yard where his entire family had been watching the confrontation, including his wife standing with crossed arms next to the wires jutting from the ground. Just to clarify, we aren’t in a neighborhood, but live in an enclave of a few of homes, all sharing fence lines with over an acre of land each.
Prior to that encounter, I first met the man’s diminutive wife when she marched outside and ordered the kids and me back to our yard. I’d been crouched beneath a Magnolia tree after the girls asked me to help them rescue a fledgling bird with an injured wing. You’d think we’d been trampling through a Yard-of-the-Month flower bed. Beyond my initial thought of, “What a bitch!” I was shocked that people like her still existed. And she’s a mother no less. I remember encountering those kinds of people when my cluster of friends and I roamed the neighborhood growing up. The kinds of people who treated kids as though they were intruders; Even sitting on the street curb in front of certain houses had been considered trespassing. I didn’t think I’d face this as an adult. And so began the silent war based on a mutual disliking.
I’d already known that something wasn’t “normal” with the neighbors after they’d emptied our friends’ (the prior tenants’) refrigerator in the middle of their move and stored their spoiling foods in the garage without permission. And they weren’t receptive to my son’s friendly overture when he walked over and introduced himself to their same aged son after they’d first moved in. It was easy to avoid one another and that’s what we did.
Months after the bird incident, my children tried to rile the neighbors by tossing a ball into their yard. I’d approved of the mild retaliation. The neighbors tossed the ball back into our yard. That game went back and forth for about a week until the ball disappeared. Since then, we’d kept our distance and I’ve ignored that childish urge of mine to annoy them once again. I keep my distance from them and I tell my kids to do the same.
Yesterday, with the holiday boredom already settling in, I sensed that the kids’ covert scheming involved harassing the neighbors. I checked on them periodically, peering through the blinds and giving them verbal warnings from the front door. They’d disappeared by the time the neighbor banged on my door. I went in search of the children to find out what happened and found them retreating in the backyard.
They admitted to shouting for the neighbors to take down their Christmas tree because it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. (I think I’ve passed on my mantra of keeping the holidays separate.) They’d also pretended to play soccer and threw their ball into the neighbors’ yard a few times before retrieving it. They showed me a video of Peter going to apologize, mockingly and not sincerely, with a box full of junk. The video recorded the “mom” calling out for him to go back to his yard. The video didn’t capture the husband storming out of the house and ordering the kids to, “Get the fuck out of our yard.” Yes, he used profanity towards kids that aren’t his own. He threw their soccer ball in his trashcan.
All of this happened within a span of ten minutes and none of it, in my opinion, warrants a call to the police. They weren’t destructive to their property. Were they annoying and rude? Yes. Could it have been handled differently if the neighbor had spoken to me as an adult instead of berating me? Most definitely. Isn’t there a middle-ground before calling the police? Apparently not. So here came the police up our gravel driveway, a surreal scene that had escalated for no reason.
After relaying my version of events, the officers told me that the neighbor had falsely accused me of using profanity when he’d been the one who’d threatened to call the police. Their son told the police that Peter said he was going to get a gun and shoot him to which Peter denied. Peter has his faults, but he always admits to threatening violence. We’re continually working with him to control his anger. I explained to the police that we weren’t gun owners and Peter didn’t have access to a gun. Before the police left, in what I vocalized was a waste of their time, I told them that I’d remind my children to stay out of the neighbors' yard and I'd continue to keep my distance as well. After all, there’s no reasoning with crazy.