The House Down the Street
I was eleven years old, and I wanted to be a mom.
I was too young to have my own child, so I wanted my mom to have another kid so I could boss it around.
That’s what it means to be a mom: being the boss of someone else.
I wanted that.
Unfortunately, my mom was selfish and uncooperative.
My only other option was babysitting.
When I was five, our neighbors across the street had a kid named Michael. With a six-year age gap between him and me, as he got older, I got the opportunity to boss him around. To mother him.
This was perfect.
Unfortunately, as Michael mastered the art of wiping his butt by himself, he started to prefer the company of my older brother. I was old news.
Some new neighbors moved in two houses down. It was a single mom with three young kids. Two girls and a boy.
You know what’s better than one kid to boss around?
I had never actually babysat Michael. He would come to our house to play or have a picnic. I would go to his house to play. But our moms were always home.
Here was my opportunity to try my hand at real babysitting while having the safety net of my mom being close by in case I needed her.
I was sure I wouldn’t need her, but this made my mom and the mother of the three kids more comfortable. I was thrilled.
The match was a success. I loved looking after the kids and the mom loved having someone to give her some flexibility to take care of adult things while her kids were safe at home.
While she was away, I learned some interesting lessons.
One of the daughters told me about douching. I’d never heard of it. When I found out it required squeezing some solution up your vagina, I thought it sounded terrible and was a little disturbed that this young girl would do such a thing. I was also a little jealous that she knew things I didn’t.
In time, I came to learn that the dad of these kids had tried to kidnap the boy. I wasn’t to answer the door when I babysat. Don’t let anyone in the house.
That was a little scary. And sad. Why didn’t the dad want the girls?
Something similar had happened with our next-door neighbors in the other direction. The father had actually kidnapped that son, at least once. He had been returned, thankfully. But, that dad never wanted his girls either.
What was wrong with girls?
Sometime later, I was babysitting at the house two doors down and was out on the front porch. I’m not sure if the threat of kidnapping had decreased, if the kids were taking a nap, or what the circumstances were, but I know I was on the porch. The front door was set away from the street a bit, so I was kind of hidden.
A truck stopped in the street in front of the house next door. The house three houses down from where I lived. It stopped and a man got out. The garage door was open. A woman came out into the driveway. I’d never seen these people before. I didn’t know who lived at that house.
The man started grabbing at the woman’s arm. She was pulling away and screaming at him to leave. He kept grabbing at her, and she hurried back toward the garage.
Then, she came back into the driveway carrying a shovel. She was swinging the shovel at him and telling him to leave.
He was yelling back but was retreating to his truck.
He got in and left.
I was frozen in place.
Suddenly, I realized I was a witness.
What if they saw me? What if they knew I saw what happened?
Would they try to hurt me?
I hurried back inside, shaken.
For the next year or so, whenever I had to walk past that house, I would change my gait. I would walk normally from my house until I thought someone in the scary house might be able to see me. Then, I would contort my body and face as I walked the length of their property. As soon as I was sure I was clear, I would resume my normal stride and stature.
I was convinced if I could make myself unappealing, perhaps even a little scary, no one would come out of the garage and chase me with a shovel.
One can never be too careful.