I have been thinking a lot of our old neighborhood, the one we lived in when in Southern California back in the 80s, and where we had so much fun seeing Brad grow. The other day as I was driving to work I passed a young woman out walking with her sweetheart. She vaguely reminded me of an older version of a neighbor’s child from the old days. Brad had lots of friends back then too, part of being an only child I think. Our house was always full of noise and activity each and every day. I was a stay-at-home mum and as many of the ladies went out of the home to work, I became the unofficial day-care lady. I didn’t get paid as one but when these kids came home from school they all ended up at our house, and I didn't mind as I wanted to make sure that Brad had lots of friends to play with. Over the course of time I baked dozens and dozens of cookies and bought gallons of milk, and I was known as “Mrs. D, the lady who was real nice but who talked funny.” (My English accent was still pretty strong.)
I got to know a lot of mums, as we all do, by introducing myself when dropping Brad off at school. I also worked a couple of days a week helping out in the classroom and went on class trips when needed. It was also a very friendly neighborhood, due partly I am convinced to the fact that we all moved into a new development at the same time, and were always out in our gardens in the beginning, and of course the weather kept us outside most of the time. I would only have to sit out front and as one or another parent came home, they would see me sitting there and come over, sometimes bringing glasses with a bottle of wine. As husbands came home they would join us and before we knew it we had a party going on, or at least a chat-fest as we watched our kids hang out in the middle of the cul-de-sac, safely at play because everyone was home and there were no more cars coming up the road. It was a great neighborhood.
There are two stories that come to mind from seeing that young woman I saw the other day, of her much younger doppelganger from California. Her sister was one of Brad’s friends and she was a few years older. I had seen her around but hadn’t actually met her yet, though I knew her sister well. One day the doorbell went and there was this very self-assured Girl Scout at the door selling cookies. She introduced herself as Mindy (no that’s not her real name but just in case she ever reads this one day I don’t want her to be embarrassed, even though I think this is a cute story and somehow I don’t think she would be, but you never know). “Hello” she said, “I am Mindy, and I am selling Girl Scout Cookies, would you like to buy a box or two?” She proceeded to schmooze me into submission with those honest-to-goodness puppy-dog-like eyes, and before I knew it I had bought several boxes. She was a master at sales. I told her how polite I thought she was and that I was very impressed with her selling ability, that she would do well selling her cookies I was sure. She replied in a very self-confident voice, nodding her head knowingly, “Oh yes, my mom has always taught me to suck up to people. She says the more you suck up to them, the more likely they are to buy anything you want to sell them, and you know something? It works! I have sold dozens and dozens already.” I think she mistook the look on my face as disbelief (it was of sorts) and she continued, “No really, I’ve sucked up so much people love me and I’ve sold over my quota!” It doesn't happen very often but I was struck dumb. I don’t know how I didn’t faint with the shock of knowing that this little kid had done a real number on me. I didn’t know whether to show complete shock or just fall over laughing. Both came later when I told Gregg about her. At the time I do believe my mouth dropped to the floor and as I shut the door I looked at myself in the mirror, saw the expression on my face and that was when I started laughing and didn’t quit until Gregg came home, and started all over again as I told him about it. When the next salesperson came to the door I politely said “No thank you, I’ve just broken our budget for the month buying Girl Scout cookies.” “Oh, Mindy’s been by has she? She’s just been to my house!” Okay, that last sentence I added for effect. Artistic license!
Of course I found out much later from her mother, that is when I could find the right words without making her jaw drop, that what her sound advice to Mindy had been, “Be very polite when you sell your cookies, because you will find that people will like you and you will sell more.” Mindy’s interpretation stretched it a little bit further.