Neighbor My Girl Is Driving Me Crazy

me rogers

We do not live in Mr. Rogers neighborhood.

“Neighbor, my girl is driving me crazy! Can she come over to your house to play?” a voice yelled over the fence. The girl was four and the voice belonged to her Mom— my first introduction to our new neighbors. Cole, barely two, was playing with his dump truck under a tree when Gabby’s mom lifted her over the fence, dropped her into our yard, introduced herself as Carolyn, and told me just to yell back over the fence if I needed anything. I should digress a moment and mention this was long before we had the 6 foot plus fence. The girl marched up to Cole, told him her name was Gaby, and informed him that she was older and would take over the dump truck operation. Cole, intrigued, agreed for the moment, but soon Cole and Gaby had a love-hate relationship, and Carolyn and I had a best-neighbor/mom friendship that lasted until they moved to their new neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri.

The kids played and fought non-stop. Cole, my earlier riser, would stand at the fence the moment I would let him out into the yard, hollering, “Gabby, come out and play!” Now, of course, Gaby was a late-to-bed, late-to-rise type of gal and liked to wake up slowly and enjoy her cereal and tuning into cartoons. Being an early riser, Cole had no respect for the late riser and would continue to summon her to come and play. Eventually, Gabby would meander to the window and call out with four-year-old exasperation, “Cole Ruscitti, can’t you see I am eating my cereal?” Eventually, the two would meet, and for the rest of the day, they would torture one another. They could not stand to be together or apart. Mostly, Carolyn and I ignored them. It became a competition to see who could lift their kid over the fence into the other kid’s yard first. Of course, Carolyn had the Baby Jack card in her hip pocket, and it’s hard to argue with “well, they could play here, but I just got Jack down for a nap.” I remember telling Joe more than once that we should think about having another baby right away.

My best Carolyn story has always turned other women all goose bumpy in awe. She had a housekeeper for four years and John, her husband, never knew! One day, he came home early, while the housekeeper was cleaning and in panic she pushed her out the back door and I summoned the bewildered woman into my yard.  Luck for Carolyn I was home.  Of course, she covered for me too. During spring cleaning, she always let me use her garbage cans to hide stuff since dearly departed Joe would comb through the garbage certain I was throwing some of his stuff away. Naturally, I was. Now, one day, her husband came in with one of Joe’s sweaters and asked her who it belonged to, and being a quick thinker, she told him it was the sweater his sister gave him (didn’t he remember?), but she didn’t think that he wanted it because it was much too big for him. Well, damn her, of course he wanted it! After all, his sister gave it to him, didn’t she? We were both grateful he never wore it in front of Joe.

One of the best things about living next door to Carolyn and John was not having to cook most nights. Carolyn always cooked too much for dinner despite the fact that her family refused to eat leftovers, so before she pitched dinner in the garbage, she would find Joe and ask him if he wanted the leftovers. Joe would always ask, “How old are they”? Carolyn would always respond, “Joe, I just made them tonight,” and food would pass over the fence. I served them up the next night for dinner. In exchange, I would try to send dessert their way a few times a week. We made a lifetime of memories in the short time we were neighbors and never lost touch after they took off for Missouri.

This week, we were sad to hear that John’s dad, “Grandpa” to all the kids (he used to hand out ice-cream money at the first note of “Pop Goes the Weasel” from the ice-cream truck), had passed away. Our neighbors were, of course, back in Chicago, and Cole and I attended the wake. The kids had not seen each other in years. Cole and Gabby warmly hugged one another, and Cole announced that he had finally learned to color within the lines. I’m not sure that Gabby believed him, but in the interest of maturity, she gave him the benefit of the doubt.

I think these two pictures of that was then and this is now are worth a 1000 words


My yard back in the days, two kids, one ready to nail the other with the hose and run for his life.


Things have changed. On the outside. Wondering about Cole’s hair? The next day, he had a haircut and is no longer sporting the Kramer (Seinfeld reference) haircut.

Odd Loves Company!


P.S. El Morno coming to Odd soon…..

18 thoughts on “Neighbor My Girl Is Driving Me Crazy

  1. Great stories, Katybeth! And the photos are so sweet. Wish we had a neighbor who cooked too much and didn’t like left-overs. Sorry to hear that John’s father died. So sad. Truly, the photos are DARLING!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • It was a funny exchange. One other food story. Joe always made lasagna for Cole’s birthdays. Coles birthdays brought about 50 guests to dinner and the trays of lasagna were huge and made over the course of a week. Joe even went to the neighborhood Italian store to buy fresh noodles cut specifically for our pans. His lasagna was the best as well it should have been. Ok, so Cole’s b-day is in March and Gabby birthday was in May. Carolyn invited us over for Gabs birthday dinner and served Sara Lee Lasagna which is fine–we are not food snobs (we eat left-overs) however when Carolyn took the first bite she looked at Joe and said with complete seriousness, “Wow this lasagna tastes like your lasagna, Joe.” I thought he would choke to death and then I was worried he would choke her to death…I don’t remember what he said to her directly but what he muttered under his breath was not nice. 😀
      Grandpa lived a long life and will be remembered with good memories for many lifetimes.
      Thanks, those kids were bad but really cute.

  2. Tell Cole to stick with cars. You can easily trade them in when the going gets rough and they never pitch your favorite golf shirt.
    I’ll be back for El Morno.

  3. I’m laughing hard. What great stories. Your neighbors sound like the best neighbors ever. I agree a women who can keep a cleaning lady secret that long is a role model to women everywhere. Sure you should be upfront but it’s so much easier sometimes to keep your own secrets….
    Have a good one and thanks for the giggle.

    • Upfront? Years ago I bought a sleeper soft from another Mom. She wanted 150.00 for it which was a fair price. Joe insisted that I offer her 100.00 and not pay a dime over 125.00. Like, I was going to bargain with a Mom in my tot mom’s group? Not. I laughing told her that I would write her a check for $100 and pay her the rest in cash. She said very smugly,” She knew some marriages based on lies lasted, but she was always truthful with her husband.” I knew we would never be friends, and I heard her marriage was over 10 years later. Neighbors and girlfriends that can keep a secret and cover for you are the best! 😀

  4. Great memories, Katybeth! I love the two photos, too — the first one looks as if Gaby knows Cole is going to nail her with the hose if she lets go!
    So wonderful, having GOOD neighbors — loved the story about Joe’s sweater and Cole waiting for Gaby to “come out to play early.”
    Condolences on the death of “Grandpa.”

    • Oh, he was going to nail her first chance but she was trying to wrestle the hose away from him because “baby’s shouldn’t get to fill the pool.”
      Fun times, good thing we were good at being clever (better word than sneaky)and mamas words were true, “men are not that bright….” or we would have been in a lot of trouble!

  5. Wonderful stories and memories. You made me wish I lived in your neighborhood. 🙂 Good neighbors are very difficult to come by and when you have experiences like that you treasure them. Thanks for sharing yours with us today. And btw—I love Cole’s hair. 🙂

    • We were so bad together in a good way and had so much fun. During the warm months our open windows lined up and Carolyn always watched her soaps at night, while I endlessly crafted something or another—I never watch daytime television but I knew what was going on with All My Children for three straight years as Carolyn ran color for me out the window.

  6. Why can’t we live in a world like that now? Seems like the past always have such great memories so why can’t we still have them. People just aren’t as friendly or do such nice things for each other anymore. We need to remember the way it was when we were growing up and try to be that way ourselves now for this next generation so maybe they too can have great memories in the years to come. That picture of the two grown up kids look so good together. Wouldn’t it be something if they ended up together?? Just sayin’

    • We did have such fun, while it lasted. Those two together? I would be afraid for the world. Funny story, there is a neighbor across the alley who must be 90 something. I think she is a bit lonely and often hollers to me when I take out the garbage, during the warmer temps to tell me a story about Princess, her little white dog. Anyway, she never fails to mention the time Joe’s older brother bit her daughter when they were little kids. I think our house back then was the neighbor house from hell. I’m told Joe’s mother who was loved by all would buy wine by the crate to hand out when she had to ask for forgiveness for the one of the kids or dog transgressions. In any case, Joe’s brother isn’t off the hook yet…

    • It was fun, we had so many laughs. I forgot to add that Joe, of-course, taught him to yell Yo Yo! Can Gaby come out and play? In that loud sing song Chicago voice. . .

  7. Bad neighbors makes for a living hell. You sure were lucky with yours. Like the before & after picture of the kids. They both look so happy! Glad Cole had that haircut……must have been windy?

    • The kids hair just gets wild and crazy–yes, a little windy.
      We have not so nice neighbors on the other side of us. My fun neighbors were replaced by a very nice Polish family who did not speak much English so we rarely talked. Except for time when one of my pups went under the fence and killed their pet rabbit tethered in their yard. A new fence went up and then we didn’t speak or see each other…They moved last summer and I have not met their replacements. I felt like we ended our neighbor relationship on good terms when they brought me a glass of champaign during their Polish pre ceremony to their daughters wedding when we all gathered on our lawns to watch…..My choice would be to live on an acre surrounded with a fence with glass bottle tops glued on top. I really like my privacy at home. My Fun neighbors have been the only exception.

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