Scene: Cleveland’s west-side ‘ghetto’
In a slightly misguided, but ultimately successful, marital experiment my parents bought a ‘fixer-upper’ double in the Detroit-Shoreway area of Cleveland, blinded by the shorter commutes, low interest home improvement loans due to gentrification policies. The fantasy of moving back to the city was marred by the neighbours. Close to 4 July, the neighbourhood turned into a warzone. According to my folks, it was ground-zero for fireworks and the street was continuously littered with used fireworks, measuring a few inches thick blanket covering the road. Turns out there were also at least two groups of kids regularly roaming the neighbourhood and generally being ‘loud.’ One group, made up of teen and pre-teen boys, started a regular basketball game outside my parents house around midnight, almost every night, during the decent weather. As you can image, the language used during these games is not appropriate to repeat here, and was used at increasingly loud decibels.
Before I continue, let me tell you a little bit more about my mother. She is a kindergarten teacher at heart. She teaches older children now, but she is, and forever will be, a kindergarten teacher; with the voice to match.
Back to the midnight ball games. Apparently, one night, my mother had had enough. She went out to her front porch and scolded the boys. That’s right, scolded them. Most likely in her kindergarten teacher voice. The response, according to my mother, was more profanity and a continued game. At this point, Mom went to her front door to retreat and realized that she had locked herself out. So there she stood, on her porch trying to hide in the shadow of the threshold and furiously ringing the door bell in the hope that Dad would wake up and open the door. Can you see her? My little, 5 foot 2 inch mother, in her nightgown, scolding urban youths in the middle of the night? All she needs are rollers in her hair and broom to shake at the delinquents.
Scene: East Greenwich
In a slightly misguided move, we rented a flat based almost solely on its back garden. It has a lovely deck with two lovely trees. It wasn’t until the first nice evening that we realized the garden backed onto council housing. It was around this time that we also realized one of the trees produced A LOT of berries.
In the two years we have lived in this flat, we have had a continual, somewhat passive-aggressive, battle going on with the family living behind us. They routinely kick soccer balls into our back garden and we routinely keep them. This then led to them routinely jumping our fence (and breaking it in the process) to retrieve the rouge balls. Then one day they cut branches off our tree. We retaliated by throwing snails over the fence (we’ll show them!). They crank their crap dance/club music, we crank Jack Johnson or classic rock. They throw eggs at the house, we clean it up while loudly complaining and wondering aloud if we should call the ‘Community Support Officer.’ We are totally winning.
Yesterday, we were having friends over for dinner/BBQ. Pete had freshly swept the deck and cleaned up for our guests. I had set out the tablecloth and lanterns and fairy lights. Then, as I am finding candles for the lanterns, I see that the
little s**ts young boys out back, have climbed up our fence and are pulling off the berries of our tree (and branches with them) showering our freshly laundered tablecloth and swept deck with juicy berries. They also decided to start throwing the berries at each other, inevitably missing, and hitting our house/deck/windows.
So, unconsciously channelling the woman standing on her porch in her nightgown, I go out on the deck and say, “Hey guys, would you mind not doing that, please? Thank you.” and then stand there and watch them as they say “yeah, okay” and keep grabbing berries and throwing them. “Guys, that’s not stopping.” Eventually, they get bored and leave, after laughing at me and muttering something I can’t understand and am pretty sure I don’t want to translate. Right around that time Pete comes out and starts yelling, “What the hell? Where did all these berries come from? I just f***ing swept!!”
Apparently scolding naughty youths, teacher voice and all, is in the blood. Becoming Mama Ria looks inevitable.