So the new neighbors came in February and I sized them up the way that you do when you take that courtesy bite of a dish you don't think you will like. After a few flimsy waves hello and some wooden half- smiles, I came to the conclusion that this was going to be a disaster. We were just too different.
And I was right. We are very different. I found this out the way I find out all the things- I opened my mouth and let all the words fall out. Its a problem. In doing so I made several conversational faux pas, as you do.
It was somewhere around around our 5th awkward driveway conversation when I let slip a political topic and found out right away that she and I were in polar opposite camps. She, like me, had some strong opinions. Funny how that works. That one slip led to an hour long conversation where I verbally danced about like Apollo Creed before the Drago fight. I, like Apollo, went in cocky and my ego did not survive the round. It was weird. It was uncomfortable. And years ago, I would have determined that she and I would never speak again because she was wrong and I was right - Harumph!
But tell that to my kids when she brazenly brings her itty bitty adorable as a tiny cotton cloud doggie out to pee in the yard. They don't want to talk politics or religion. They want to love on the cutest pup of all time and, my friends, the cutest pup of all time belongs to my neighbor.
That feeling we all know well? The one where you are being taught a lesson?
I was feeling it. But I held my ground and continued avoiding her with my ninja-like stealth.
As it turns out my neighbors also happen to have a kid. He's a 6th grader and he plays with my two like they are his little brother and sister but in a good way. He is kind and he is fun. Pants and Plum love him more than video games - like Pants actually said those words -"I love him more than video games, mama".
What was I to do with my rage face? I had to wash it off when this sweet kid knocked on my door to play with Pants and Plum. It quickly became clear to me that I needed to hike up my big girl pants, leave my pride in the house and make a better connection with the neighbors. Because, well, our kids.
Dang Kids. They have a way of messing with my righteous anti-social plans.
So I broke the ice again. But this time I put my politics and judgment away. Now, I have always tried to lead a judgment free life and this? This right here was hard. I was to fall on my sword. I chose to do that waiting by the kitchen window until she brought that little fluffy pup out to pee and acted as though I was leaving out my back door at the same time. Super adult-like.
And I have no process to share with you. I simply swallowed hard and walked my sorry butt over to her side of the driveway and told her how much I loved her kid. Her face softened. Her shoulders relaxed. Mine did too. The door was creaking open.
We talked for about 30 minutes. I found out that we shared some experiences. I found out that our lives were not that different. I found out that she has a softness in her that I didn't see before. And I didn't see it because I wasn't looking.
That evening as Brandon and I talked about our day we heard a knock on the door. It was her. She locked herself out of the house and was overwhelmed. We helped. Then her newest puppy died unexpectedly and I came home to find her crying in our driveway. I asked her if I could hug her and she cried on my shoulder.
That brings us up to this week. On Sunday I came down with a nasty bout of strep throat and you know who asked me if she could run some errands for me? You guessed it.
And all these weeks while the adults tried to figure out how to be adults, our kids played together nearly every day.
And that brings us to today. She left just over an over ago after coming by to check on me. I am still recovering and she knew that Brandon had to go back to work today and that I was alone with the kidlets. She came to see how she could help me. Let me say that again because just last week I had to tell her that my kids can't come in to her house without me because she doesn't keep her legally owned gun locked in a safe but rather by her bedside in a locked drawer which makes me nervous and yet, she took no offense. She understood. And came over to see how she could help me today.
We have officially busted through to the other side of right relationship.
So I wonder if she realizes that she has helped me more than she knows. She has reminded me that we don't have to divide ourselves by political party or religious affiliation (or lack thereof). She reminds me that though she holds beliefs that I more than disagree with, she is not a bad. In fact, our awkward first conversations have led us to understand each other better. Its weird how that happened.
We don't have to hide ourselves from each other and fear hard conversations. She already knows I'm a hippy tree hugging liberal and I already know she is a religious conservative. Our respective rage faces are finally put away. Its a relief.
We found the common ground. We both love our kids. We both have a desire to be kind. We both do what we think is best for our families.
And while the initial uncomfortable-ness was, well, uncomfortable, its all good. Our kids play. We talk. We laugh. We share food. And little by little we learn more about each other.
All because we share the driveway.