God help me, I’ve become Mrs. Gilman!
Mrs. Gilman was our next door neighbor on Magnolia Terrace who spent hours sitting on her porch yelling at all the kids in the neighborhood.
“Does your mother know where you’ve been?”
“Does your mother know you’re playing in mud puddles in your Sunday clothes?”
“Does your mother know you’re climbing that tree?”
UGH!! I still hear her voice echoing through the neighborhood.
But even worse than her yelling at us was that she’d call our mom and tattle on us. She drove my mother crazy! Mom knew exactly what we were doing and in fact, she was the one who taught us all about playing in mud puddles and climbing trees.
As a kid I could never understand why Mrs. Gilman sat on her porch all the time staring at the neighborhood. Now I have become her. I sit on the porch each evening watching the neighborhood go by as I write, sit, daydream and just breathe. However, in a strange twist of fate I find myself wanting to yell at the moms, not the kids.
“Geez Mom! Back off and let the kid ride his bike!”
“Stop stressing, the kid’s not gonna bleed to death!”
“Why can’t she play outside?!”
“She doesn’t want to wear that stupid dress!”
“Why can’t he jump off the swing?”
Even worse are the evenings I look out at the neighborhood or walk through the park and there are no children playing outside at all. No kids on the playground, no one playing ball and no one climbing trees! Why? Those are the times I want to yell at the world, “Where is everybody?” But I know exactly where they are — inside watching television and playing video games. It breaks my heart.
Thankfully my thoughts are just thoughts and I don’t yell at the neighborhood. Parenting is a tough enough job without the old lady on the porch telling you she knows better than you. So I keep my judgments, opinions and snippy comments to myself and simply laugh at myself for becoming Mrs. Gilman. But each night I am forever thankful that I raised my boys in the woods of West Virginia with no one to yell at them, or me, and I am equally thankful I was raised by parents who taught us how to get dirty and gave us plenty of room to roam.
So for now it’s time for me to get up off the porch. I’ve got a tree to climb.
Martha Reed Johnston is a professional storyteller and member of the Story Spinners, which meets in Laurinburg.