Thursday, November 14, 2013

What Must the Neighbors Think?

photo credit
*Regretfully I do not have a real-life photo for this post!

A couple of years ago I was hanging out with some friends when someone posed the question, When was the last time you did something embarrassing? 

Before I could say anything, one of my friends promptly responded, I don't do embarrassing things. I closed my mouth and sat back to consider this. Yep, I decided. She's telling the truth. I couldn't think of a single time I'd ever seen my friend behave in a socially questionable way. Given her response I was suddenly feeling less enthusiastic about sharing some of my classic Lauren stories. Like the time my friend Karen traveled from her home in England to visit me and I picked her up at the Denver airport wearing a clown suit.
My disclaimer is that Karen is so easily embarrassed, it's hard NOT to do things like wear a clown suit to pick her up at the airport. In fact, Karen has probably logged more "embarrassing moments with Lauren" than any other friend of mine. What can I say, except she brings it out in me? But they're not all Karen's fault. What about the time when I was seventeen and I decided to give "Nair Hair Remover" a try? If you've never used hair removal cream, it's best not to start on your bikini line, and it's also recommended that you get off the phone and don't try to multitask. Let's just say that I wasn't paying close attention, and before I knew what was happening I inadvertently had "Naired" away most of the hair in my nether region. While talking to someone on the phone. 

I'm not sure why, but my life is full of these kind of funny, kind of awkward moments that I seem to continually invite, although not exactly on purpose. So, here's how the whole neighborhood got to know me a little better this week:

Since I currently live in my dad's house and it's on the market, whenever the house is being shown the responsibility falls on my shoulders to make sure it's clean and tidy, inside and out. As I spent Monday preparing the house for a Tuesday showing, it came to my attention that it is fall and every single leaf in our neighborhood had somehow ended up in our front yard. So, I'll rake the leaves, I decided. How bad could it be? 

Now in fairness, let me say that it was not raining when I began raking the leaves. And there are many, many days when the sun doesn't even show its pretty golden face here in Chicago, so I didn't even think to check the weather report. I was in a hurry with a yard full of leaves to rake. Being in such a hurry also prevented me from putting on...how shall I put it? Proper leaf-raking attire. I didn't KNOW it takes so long to rake leaves. We had maybe twenty-six leaves in our yard back in Denver. It wasn't a big deal. So, I stayed in my pajamas (they are gray and almost look like sweats) and since I didn't want to risk scuffing my spiffy new tennis shoes, I inspected my options and decided on a nice pair of house slippers that have a firm rubber sole. Coat, check! Jeremy's work gloves, check! And wait a minute, it's bitterly cold outside. I should grab a hat. But since I can't find my usual, incredibly stylish snow hat, I'll just wear this multi-colored, frumpy looking knit hat that someone must have strategically left at our  house since no one else in the whole world would ever wear such a hat. And off I went to rake the leaves.

It started raining ten minutes into the job. It was really only a light sprinkle though, and I was determined not to act like a finicky princess. I can rake. I'm capable. And my pride refused to leave the job to Jeremy since he doesn't return from the city until after dark each day. Welcome home, honey. I know you've been working all day and it's dark and rainy outside, but could you please go rake the leaves because I didn't really want to. You see, I don't like raking. I tried the conversation in my head several different ways, but it didn't work. I always ended up feeling like a rotten apple. And so I kept raking.

After forty-five minutes my hands were raw and sore inside Jeremy's work gloves. The drizzle was a little more steady, but since I'd already raked half the yard, I couldn't very well abandon the project. I'd love to hear what my dad's realtor might have to say about showing his house with a half raked yard. So, I raked faster and it was going pretty well until my four year old opened the front door and hollered out, Mom, James is awake from his nap. We'll come out and help you rake now. 

I don't remember the sequence of events that culminated in me raking in the rain with my baby strapped to my back, but we got there. I think I tried to get Elisabeth to "entertain him" inside for a while. And when that failed I bundled both little kids like I was sending them off to the Arctic so that they'd be suitably dressed to "play" outside while I worked. Then I resumed raking like someone was chasing me even as James crawled after me crying, pausing his complaints only long enough to taste the leaves every now and then. But after a while he gave up and sat on the sidewalk sobbing, the boots on his little feet sticking into a puddle. I know lovey, but I'm almost finished, I pleaded. Elisabeth had long since abandoned us and escaped back inside to watch cartoons.

So, because I am a loving and awesome mother and would never let my baby sit and cry in a puddle,  I strapped him to my back and he nestled down inside the baby backpack, protesting with a more mild, half-glazed kitten whimper. With every step my slippers made that delicious sucking sound that indicates they are as full of water as a kitchen sponge. My pajama bottoms were so wet they were sticking to me like leggings. And wouldn't you know that in a period of twenty minutes two of my neighbors backed out of their driveway and paused, craning their neck to see what the crazy lady is doing?

By the way, don't worry dad! These shenanigans are actually helping to sell your house. While I can tell the neighbors love me, they might not be broken hearted to see us go. They might, in fact, be advertising your house to all their friends and co-workers this very minute.  

As I finished up the yard the percussion of rain hitting the sidewalk slackened. I raised my head to see if it was stopping, but no. That wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. What was better was that it was starting to snow, and within five minutes there was a fair dusting of snow all over the yard. So why am I raking in the first place if the snow is going to obscure the grass anyway? Doesn't anyone ever check the weather around here? 

If you really want to know why people like me end up in so many awkward or embarrassing situations, raking in the rain or nairing off their pubes and whatnot, I'll tell you. Sometimes life happens and it rains on the day the leaves must be raked. Sometimes we're in a hurry, focused on the getting it done and less on the details of how it gets done. We care enough what others think, enough to notice the neighbors are staring, but not enough to go inside and change. We often value fun or funny over practical and/or socially acceptable. And in the end, raking in the rain wasn't all bad. By the end I was exhilarated. I raked all the leaves without having to make a pathetic appeal to my overworked, overtired husband. Raking in the rain was like a kid staying on the sled hill after the sun's already gone down, or staying in the pool after the adult-swim has already started. I'm a devoted rule-keeper, but maybe the yang side of me is a devoted rule breaker. Who knows? But by the end I'd never felt better.

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