Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Good Christian Receptionist

When I first moved to Splendaville, my immediate focus was on finding a quality pediatrician who could tell me what on earth I was supposed to do to keep tiny infant Phartacus alive. When it came time to find a doctor for myself, my main criteria was expediency, so I decided to try the one whose office was approximately four minutes from my front door. The four-minute doctor's waiting room featured piped music from the local Christian station, a wall calendar with images of blue skies and fluffy clouds overlaid with cursive Biblical quotes, and a muted television endlessly looping some video that seemed to be about the resurrection of Jesus. I sat down in astonishment. (This is no longer astonishing. My dentist apparently cannot scrape at tartar unless the earth is rejoicing in His majesty.) An old lady dressed neck to ankle in purple polyester, thinning hair an alarming shade of magenta, eyebrows drawn in not quite the right place, signed in at the front desk, then leaned over and loudly told the woman behind it how happy she was that the four-minute doc had found a "good Christian receptionist".  Huh? What exactly did that mean? Could a Jew not answer the phone and schedule her appointment? This was before I knew there were no Jews in Splendaville.

I never returned to the four-minute doc. (The next guy I tried purely based on the terrible reviews from my Bible-thumping neighbor, Burgundy Brenda Rae. He's an old codger who said "bullshit" during the exam, and I've been a faithful patient ever since.) But it wasn't too long after that I received a recommendation for a "good Christian plumber", though frankly I suspect a Buddhist, Wiccan, or even an alcoholic atheist could wield an effective drain snake. And I kept hearing "good Christian" used as a general descriptor. ("He's mid-thirties, about 5'10", sandy hair, good Christian.") I have come to notice that, quite often, when someone needs to tell you that he or she is a "good Christian", it's because you might not otherwise guess.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Three... No, FIVE Followers Wonder: Who Is This Jaded Jade?

"I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!"

To think I mocked along with the hoi polloi. Now I understand. At last, I'm breathing the rarified air that comes with having people who like you.

Three FIVE followers.

I know next to nothing about blogs or the blogosphere, but it certainly seems as if everyone has a blog for their family photos, travels, hobby, lizard club, etc., which loyal friends and family members dutifully read and comment upon. But since my husband already has to live it and so apparently has no desire to revisit all the fun in cyberspace, and my mother's response was, "I think I recognize your neighbors," and, "It will be good practice," and pretty much everyone I know around here is fodder for the grist, it seemed safe to assume that my blog would remain unknown to all but that loyal friend who silently and invisibly subscribes. I was sure this would be just fine, as I am writing primarily to avoid parenting, Pentecostals, and expensive therapy while filling the hours until I can justify a gin and tonic.

But now that I have three FIVE followers, some of whom I DON'T EVEN KNOW, I begin to wonder how this comes across. I imagine I sound snarky, bitter, possibly even condescending towards all that is The South (unless you read that first post where I mention the things I dig, like pork barbeque. I really dig pork barbeque.) Not to mention blasphemous, alcoholic and a poor maternal role model.

And most importantly, what do people think I look like? 

Surely there must be something about my appearance that screams WEIRD? Something that sets me apart from the ladies here before I even have the chance to open my heathen mouth and shove my flappy foreign foot in it? Things like unusual facial piercings, aubergine highlights, knuckle prison tats, etc.? Why else would I be a self-proclaimed West Coast freak?

Sadly not. I'm well inside the normal range for many suburban mothers: Not being orbited by any moons or satellites just yet, but there's definitely more of me than there used to be. (Can we go with "on the chubby side"?) Not completely sloppy, but it's safe to say I won't be making the Splendaville Sentinel fashion pages anytime soon. An average day might include Old Navy cargo pants (stretch waistband mandatory) and a Target t-shirt.

Brown hair, glasses when I can't be bothered with the contacts, (so, glasses) and a varicose vein (thank you, Phartacus and Slappy) complete the picture. I think I'm still reasonably attractive, (because didn't that sound attractive?) but my days of car wash and construction site leers are well past. In other words, like many women my age, I'm invisible (but that's a whole other post!)

So, though I'm not dolled up like a proper Southern gal, I don't think I look like the kind of person who would necessarily cause controversy or spout outrageous things. It was surprising to me that I seemed to be so controversial here, and after numerous social flops I developed a healthy, self-preservationist case of sour grapes and snark. I also realized I ought to keep my big fat mouth shut a whole lot more, and find another outlet. Hello, blog!

O, five followers who have lifted me up to these dizzying heights, I do possess a secret marshmallow center. I love kittens and Christmas, piña coladas and getting caught in the rain... whoops. I like all that stop-and-smell-the-roses sentimental hooey, but where's the fun in that? You don't come here for that, do you? If you're hoping to witness a story of personal growth, stay tuned. Maybe once I get this all out of my system I'll start posting about my heirloom tomatoes and restored Colonial Revival furniture.

Friday, September 17, 2010

End of Summer Cont... The Colors of Autumn

September 7
September 17
I just love watching the colors change this time of year. Even after all these seasons, I'm still amazed at how quickly things turn once the weather cools.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stealth Neighbors

Somewhere during the nuclear winter fallout that has been my life since school started and I began spending three hours daily driving Phartacus and Slappy to and from their respective lives and collecting snacks for soccer games and class events and coordinating Cub Scout calendars and chaperoning field trips and volunteering on the school gardening committee and leading an early-morning arts workshop and popping muscle relaxants for a spasmed back and working part time and gulping Chardonnay while folding laundry, the neighbors managed to move in next door without my noticing. Oh I know, last Saturday I wrote that the moving truck had pulled up, as I prepared to settle in for a blow-by-blow of any questionable floral sofas, lamp-side table combos, or particle board trout diorama coffee tables that might emerge from the truck. But all that arrived was a refrigerator (stainless steel, entirely above reproach), which was matter-of-factly carted into the house by delivery men before the truck left and all was quiet. I assumed the main event was forthcoming, but that night, light appeared from between the cracks of suddenly visible from Phartacus' bedroom window if one leans out the sill towards the left with binoculars kitchen curtains. A car was in the driveway; the porch light was on. What the what? How did I miss this? The next day, I shrewdly combined Cub Scout Requirement 3C with good-neighborliness and baked up a batch of homemade -- I'm talking started with flour, sugar, and baking soda type stuff -- chocolate chip cookies to take over for that first impression I'd been pondering in my last post. Plate of cookies at the ready, I kept looking over at the house, but there was no sign of life. Probably churching...

Cut to Wednesday night. I've eaten all but two of the homemade chocolate chip cookies, and I still haven't seen the neighbors, even after dinner tonight while trailing behind Phartacus and Slappy on their bikes, a Cub Scout manual in one hand (never miss an opportunity to check off a requirement) and a lowball of Chard in the other. Only the car and the kitchen light give testimony to their presence. No little kid waiting for the bus. No coming and going from the front door. No wandering around the garden or sitting on the back deck. No sounds emanating whatsoever.

So far, I freaking love them.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Neighbors

Oh Sweet Baby Jesus, a moving truck just pulled up next door. Please Lord, that the new neighbors may not be cretins.

This will be our third set of neighbors in that house. The first guy was some sort of postal worker with the night shift, which should clue you in on his sociability factor. He had two little boys and a wife I never saw. The little boys occasionally played on a swing set that their caring father had placed on a bed of crushed bricks. When they fell off the rings onto their heads a few times I stopped seeing them outside. The dad liked to blow off some night shift steam by driving one of those large remote-controlled cars in the road outside my bedroom window. At 6am. (Never with his little boys, mind you.) After waking up several Saturday dawns to the sound of a rinky-dink motor whining and buzzing on all the juice a couple of 9 volts could muster, I staggered outside, squinty, disheveled and irate, to tell him what I thought of his hobby.

Postal Boy was replaced by a family whose wife came to be referred to as "The Ballbuster" by their other neighbors. Right after The Ballbuster turned up she had Mr. Ballbuster knock out a section of their fence so that their hound could be emptied directly from their kitchen door into our side yard to enhance our landscape and get into scraps with our aging dog.

The Ballbuster had three tiny children, and she kept the family on a strict schedule. Children were up at 5:30am, no naps permitted, and in bed at 6pm. Mr. Ballbuster was sent out to mow the lawn at 6am on Sundays (noticing a marital trend here), and the tiny children were sent outside during Phartacus' naptime to scream beneath his nursery window and regale me with questions about exactly what I was doing in my own yard during these brief interludes. The Ballbuster wandered into our backyard a time or two to ask why Phartacus' hair was so long and why he was already two years old and not potty trained a year ago like all her tiny children had been.

Eventually Mr. Ballbuster tired of such domestic bliss, and after months of listening to The Ballbuster sit on her porch bellowing into her cell phone about all Mr. Ballbuster's shortcomings while her tiny children roamed my yard and toddled out into the street, the happy couple went their separate ways. Mercifully, The Ballbuster left the house and took the hound, and the tiny children appeared every other weekend. Mr. Ballbuster bought a Harley, a brain bucket, and a black leather vest, and took up with Crystal the blonde brick house. Now Crystal and Mr. Ballbuster are due to wed, and their combined five children require more space than the house next door can provide.

I haven't even gotten into the other neighbors. Yes, I've mentioned a bit about Neighbor In Swim Trunks From Two Sizes Ago's curdling above-ground pool and outdoor aesthetic, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. You've yet to hear about Creepetta and The Hamburglar, Burgundy Brenda Rae, or The Lawn Troll. Suffice it to say, years of unfortunate experiences have made me extremely wary of what's coming down the pike next. In the naivete' of early homeownership, I was somehow friendly enough to give off the impression that I enjoy watching children with no advance warning or expectation of reciprocity, and don't mind at all if you hack branches off our trees or take down our boundary fence without asking.

So I need to decide -- and fast -- what kind of first impression to make with the new neighbors. Do I take over a goody and introduce myself? Probably should. Can I do it in a way that says, "I'm friendly, but don't even think about messing with my fence, sending your kid over every single time I step out the door, blasting classic rock music on your outdoor boombox even when you're not home, borrowing our mower and returning it without the bearing that keeps the axel in place, breaking our expensive rake and replacing it with the cheapest one you can find, not offering to replace or even thanking us for sawing your child out of our toddler's plastic swing after repeatedly warning her she was too big to get in it, or shooting out our sliding door with an air rifle and sending over an alkie with the DTs unannounced to discuss a special method of replacing only one door pane, and only after we had to send the sheriff to your door because you wouldn't own up?" I think I definitely need to try.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Suffering Due to a Pagan Society

The Splendaville Sentinel ran an ad today for the uncomfortably close Backwoods Baptist Church, which has been wasting years of its time trying to get me to Know Jesus In A Personal Way and sending pamphlets to Mr. Pat McCown letting me know they're praying that a new passion for Jesus will break out in my family.  Turns out, not only do they have Friday Sports Night (two hours of volleyball or basketball interspersed with personal testimonies!), they have a Bible Institute that is offering a fall course entitled, "Suffering Due to a Pagan Society". Splendaville residents are invited to spend five Monday evenings learning "how to handle persecution in the workplace due to your faith in Christ". Considering that standard openers around here involve asking if you've been saved and describing someone first and foremost as a "good Christian", I find it a little hard to believe that there is five Mondays' worth of local paganism and persecution to bone up on.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The End of Summer

The day after Labor Day, and summer is officially over. Never mind that silly autumnal equinox later this month, or that two-for-one weenie special at the Porkly Workly -- I know summer's done for because Neighbor In Swim Trunks From Two Sizes Ago has stopped chlorinating his above-ground pool, and it's already going green in the center. This annual tradition will progress throughout the autumn, its murky depths becoming increasingly pleasant to gaze upon during dinner, until sometime around January, when the scummy remnants will be covered with a saggy black tarp that will collect pine needles from his dead Loblolly pine until Memorial Day.

I'm pretty sure NISTFTSA is actually a Waste-Not-Want-Not sort of ecological genius, not just a cheap lazy redneck bastard. He must be thinking, why put in any more chlorine when we'll only be swimming for a few more weeks?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Your Own Personal Minivan

I drive a minivan, and I am an individual. I swear.

You would not believe how many Honda Odysseys there are in Splendaville. A bunch of Toyota Siennas, too, as well as a smattering of Chrysler Town & Countrys, Nissan Quests,  Dodge Caravans, and sundry '80s van-jalopies. But mostly, I see Odysseys, and they seem to come in three colors: beige, silver, or charcoal. I assume that once people realize they cannot tell their Odyssey from the 94 other Odysseys in any parking lot, they start thinking up ways to add some personal flair.

It goes without saying that a Jesus fish is the first step: some with the little cross inside, some without; some with "Jesus" written inside. A number of creative individuals like to assemble a school of Jesus fish, each representing a family member. So on their next trip to that parking lot, they must walk along thinking, "Is that my beige Odyssey with the Jesus fish? Oh no, mine has two big ones and three little ones, not FOUR. Oh hey, is THAT my beige Odyssey? No wait, those Jesus fish don't have little crosses inside..."

Clearly, more personalization needed. Enter: stick figure family. Each family member gets their own stick figure window decal, personalized with perhaps a golf club for dad, a purse for mom, soccer ball for junior, and ballet for sister. Don't forget the pets! So now they're in that parking lot going, "Is that my beige Odyssey with the Jesus fish and stick family? No hang on, that's a dog. MINE has a cat..."

Sometimes the stick figure family has their last name floating above them. There might also be a decal that's got junior's school team with his name inside, or the daughter's dance studio and her name. Whenever I see one of those, the big city, West Coast weirdo in me thinks: If I were a pedophile, I'd go to Splendaville Elementary after school to watch Johnny Smith at soccer practice. Then I'll try Sugar & Spice Dance Studio to watch Janey practice ballet...

A whole roadmap for the disturbed is on the back of every personalized minivan.