"Let's go to Gamma's house again when we sleep," AJ suggested this morning. Then he added, "But this time tell me first."
It sounds like typical AJ speak, up there with, "Call BJ and sure him I'm a robot and robots don't sleep early," and "My real parents are vampires and superheroes." That is if you didn't know that we had, in fact, packed up the boys and went to my parents' house at 3:00 AM on New Year's Day while the police searched the area for the kids that broke into the vacant apartment next to us--the second time the police came for problems with the adjacent apartment in three weeks.
Unfortunately, AJ is only too firmly grounded in reality.
My husband and I have been discussing this over and over. What exactly should we do? Is it safe for the boys to live here? Was the first issue--an outraged woman bashing in our living room window by accident (we're not sure if she thought it was the neighbors' or if she just caught it on the back swing while she was aiming again for their front door). We were assured by the apartment that the neighbors were moving and that further incidents should not occur. I worried for the younger children in that family who are still so innocent and had played so kindly with my children all summer and blindly hoped that perhaps the problems wouldn't stay with us or follow them. But now we were wondering. Was that a fluke or the first incident in a pattern?
As he looked at me during the short drive over to my parents', my husband said simply, "This is how people get shot, Beth. The kids are scared. The cops are scared."
He's right. I know it. And our paper thin walls aren't going to keep any bullets out. We were lucky that night.
The funny thing is...I know that we're meant to be here. For how long, I don't know. I just have felt it. And I am slowly being taught to love my neighbors. It has been a very long lesson as I am perhaps more stubborn than some people the Lord has to deal with. The years, in fact, do stretch on. When the roommate with an abusive boyfriend was taken away, there were new issues to deal with (although my second roommate and I are still in touch, and I am so grateful because she ROCKS!). When I then thought I was leaving the problems of that dorm, I moved in with a felon (Oops! Surprise!).
Of course, a lot has happened between then and now, but I am STILL learning to love my neighbors. And each time I think I am getting somewhere, I realize that I may not be.
I spent the next day wondering where these kids' parents were. We also had "parented" a teenager for a short time - my husband's cousin who stayed with us for two years from the time he was 14-16. During that time, I identified strongly with Petunia Dursley. I felt awful for not being able to love this child the way a mother should. With an adopted brother, I always had been sure that I could love a child who was not mine. And perhaps I did and do, in my own way. Many older mothers reassured me that the "love" they felt for their children when they were teenagers was not always the affectionate kind. And much of what I, and I suspect many other parents, felt was more concern for him and resentment that I couldn't do what needed to be done than anger at him or resentment that he was there.
Back to the point, however, as I reminded myself New Year's Day, Petunia Dursley always knew where Harry was.
But then I began thinking of all the what if's. What if the kids, who had broken in next door and sounded like they were tearing the place apart and were about to come through our walls, had snuck out and their parents thought they were sleeping? What if their parents couldn't find them? What if I was completely wrong, and this wasn't the parents' fault at all? But then, whose fault is it? Is fault-finding inappropriate or is it a necessary step in finding the problem that must be solved?
What blame lies on me in this situation? Am I participating by ignoring something going on around me?
Once again, loving my neighbor is turning out to be a whole lot harder than it sounds.