“Back to school.” Those words conjure visions of fresh-faced cherubs in new clothes eager to learn after a long summer break. It also brings to mind images of moms high-fiving each other over margaritas by the pool. Even though I’m not a parent, I go with the latter.
In August of 2002, I discovered the school bus stop was directly in front of my house. We’d moved in during the summer and this tidbit wasn’t shared by the real estate agent. Had I known, I would’ve knocked 10% off the offer.
On that fateful day the little darlings queued up at 7:00. It was a hot sunny morning, so several decided my front porch would be a nice shady place to share a pre-school juice box or two. After sweeping trash for a week, I realized an uncomfortable truth.
This was war.
I started my campaign cautiously. I was outnumbered, new in town, and my opponent was strong. On Monday, I was sitting on my porch with morning tea. Even a footstep onto my path was met with a sharp crackle of a lowered newspaper and my best lawyerly glare.
It took a week, but the local offspring retreated to the telephone pole on the corner casting subdued and sullen glances my way. Even after it was too cold for sunrise tea, the trash stayed where it belonged, in the gutter, where the prevailing wind made it their parents’ problem.
Until my morning net surfing was disturbed by a loud KA-WHUMP. Storming outside to investigate, I found a baseball on the ground under a matching dent in my siding and a group of the world’s most innocent children standing with their backs to me.
I picked up the offending sphere and strolled over to the juvenile cadre. After plying my well-honed interrogation skills, I discovered that someone named “nobody” had thrown the ball and evidently all of the kids in my hood need glasses, because no one saw anything.
I had one card left – a daring bluff. Feigning nonchalance, I said, “Okay, how about I ride to school on the bus and talk to the principal. I’m sure he can give me a list of your parents and their phone numbers.”
Ah, the innocence of small town youth. They didn’t know the driver wouldn’t let me on the bus and the principal certainly wouldn’t give out that information. Another lawyer glare and a small rift formed in the wall of silence. One of the older girls stepped aside and, like the parting of the Red Sea, her friends followed. The brotherhood broken, it only took a few seconds for the cheese to be standing alone.
Tossing the ball from one hand to the other, I asked him to explain. A choked, “sorry,” spluttered out. It was enough. My siding was so hail-pocked that the new dent probably smoothed out an old dent. This was about principle and turf.
He reached for the ball and I said, “Nah, this is mine now. If you want it back, send your dad over to introduce himself.”
I still have that ball. And I never had another bus stop problem in the eight years I lived there.
So, those three little words,
Are both a cry of relief and a call to battle.
Terri Lynn Coop lives in the Midwest and practices her lawyer glare every chance she gets. She has perfected some Jedi mind-tricks to keep local kids out of the backyard and relishes her title of the "mean lady on the corner."