Mr. and Mrs. Shields

Hello, travelers. I have noticed that as we humans get older we simply become more of what we have always have been; like petals in a flower, each layer is slightly different, but all are connected in the continued unfolding.   The summer between 5th and 6th grade my family moved from Renton, WA. to a home in the south end of Seattle.  Our new neighbors to the right were an older couple named Mr. and Mrs. Shields and the Wilson family lived on the left.  I quickly learned that both Mr. Wilson and Mrs. Shields were the crotchety type. Neither one of them appeared to like children, not even Mr. Wilson who had four hooligan boys ( and geese, but that is another story for another time). Grumpy neighbors aside, this new neighborhood was packed with kids AND  the back yard at this house was long and deep and the perfect place for the gang to convene for games of Red Light- Green Light, Red Rover, softball and tag.  Some of you reading this probably played in that very yard. Whenever we headed out into the back to play, Mrs. Shields would take that as her cue to step out her back door and shout instructions over the fence  telling us to keep the noise down and to make sure no balls went over said fence as they might hit her iris collection. I wish I could tell you that this was an incentive for us to change our behavior, but it was not, nor did it put the hoped for damper on either the noise level or any game playing plans. What did happen was if and when any ball or balsa wood airplane went sailing over into Mrs. Shields yard it was scooped up and put into a big wire bin she had next to the fence; a holding tank for toys that had crossed the line that was close enough to see but too far away to reach.  Now there is also a Mr. Shields in this story and  Mr. Shields DID like children. Mr. Shields would wait until his wife left to get her hair done or go grocery shopping and then come out into their back yard and toss a few balls or toys back over the fence into our yard. This was a Covert OP and he never spoke while doing this–he quietly pitched them over and I would run to retrieve them and then get them back to whatever kid had lost whatever it was.  The one and only time Mr. Shields ever actually talked to me was the weekend we were packing to move to a bigger house just down the hill. He came over to the fence and told me that he really liked hearing us having a good time playing out in the back yard.  A couple days before we moved I noticed Mrs. Shields getting into their big old Buick and I went back into my house and dashed off a note to Mr. Shields on a piece of red construction paper. I ran over to their front porch, knocked on the door and blasted back to my side of the fence. I heard the door open and Mr. Shields picked up the paper I had left for him. It was a short note that said something like, “Dear Mr. Shields, even though your wife is kind of grouchy, the kids all like you and I want to thank you for being nice to children. Your friend and moving away neighbor, Penny Thornburg.”  I do not know what the whole story was regarding Mrs. Shields, but I am certain that there was a story. Mrs. Shields seemed to take actual pleasure in bullying the local kids and that was the part I never really could get. Now, from this much older ( and hopefully wiser) perspective, I notice how some people feel that the mere accumulation of years gives them some kind of special dispensation to be rude and ill-mannered– like they have earned the right to be the Mrs. Shields of their own neighborhoods. To this I say PHOOEY. I also believe that there are many more folks around like the Mr. in this tale than the Mrs.   Final note: I confess that never really liked Mrs. Shields. I tried to like her, but mostly I just felt sorry for her–even as an 11 year old  I thought that anybody who is that scary and grumpy must be pretty unhappy most of the time. Wasn’t it Abe Lincoln who wrote that people are only as happy as they make up their minds to be?  *Waving at you from a far-away place in my memories today and remembering that we all have a choice about how we are going to show up. Ta for now…

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