April 12, 2014

The Tall Man and Neighbors

I have a friend who has taught her little girl that "the tall man" never stands alone. Just the other day, this little girl, stood all of her fingers straight up from her hand and said, "Heaver?" (which is toddler-speak for Heather), "The tall man never stands alone."

This monkey let his tall man stand alone.  SOURCE

I didn't ask my friend why she had to teach this lesson to her pre-schooler, I just chuckled and assured the tiny tike that the tall man, indeed, never stands alone. And for a four-year-old? This is a valuable lesson.

This week, though, my tall man--actually, my tall men--stood alone. A lot. Behind the closed doors of my mother's house. I not only let my tall men stand alone, I let them do a little dance as well, and I accompanied their dance with some fancy lyrics that would have Tipper Gore slapping an explicit sticker across my mouth.

The thing is that I rarely--RARELY--actually flip someone off. Rarely.  It basically has no meaning. It doesn't make anyone or anything better. If anything, the bird only serves to exasperate any situation in which it is flipped. But, I was frustrated and there wasn't much I could do but let my tall man stand alone. So, I did.

Earlier in the week, a neighbor of my mother's left a note for me and my sister. I'm not going to give you details, but the note was nice enough. A few days later--Thursday morning at 3:16, to be exact, she left another note. But, if you ask the neighbor, she'll tell you she only left one. The handwriting was the same; when you teach composition for twenty years, you are a handwriting expert. The neighbor, when I confronted her got the content of both notes confused, but she only admitted to one.

In the second note, she became harassing and abusive, and she admitted to trespassing on my mom's property at 3:16 a.m.! My sister found the second note, got mad, let her tall man stand by himself pointed in the general direction of my mom's house, and then she called me. I decided to call the police.

Even with my frozen shoulder, I'm confident I could take the neighbor. Plus, my mom has a few really sweet, very supportive neighbors who'd chip in and help me if needed. They'd even let their tall men stand alone on our behalf.  I wasn't scared of her, but I wanted it on record that she'd trespassed and that she'd threatened us. After school, I went to my mom's.

I called the cops and said I wanted to speak to an officer. Then I waited. I got mad at the neighbor and my tall man stood alone. I got mad that the police were taking so long, so I let my tall man stand alone some more. Then, I thought I locked my keys in the car. My tall man stood alone more.

Finally, I decided to confront the neighbor. I was firm but respectful. I was honest and called her bluff. She was not comfortable with my presence at her front door. My tall man did not stand alone but mercy! He wanted to! Then, as I was basically telling her she had broken the law in so many ways, the police came to my mom's house.

But, it wasn't just any police man. It was a former student.

When I became a teacher, I adopted the philosophy of investment. If I wanted a return from my students, I'd have to invest in them. I go to sporting events, concerts, birthday parties. I know about their families, their friends, their hobbies, their passions. And, in return, they perform for me in the classroom. What I didn't understand when I became a teacher, was that the return of my investment didn't end  when they walked out of my classroom on the last day of school.

So, when Brandon stood in my mom's driveway and gave me a big hug, I was not only grateful that I'd invested in him as a sixth and a ninth grader, but that my neighbor was seeing just how well loved I was by an officer of the law.

I explained the situation to Brandon; he explained the law to me. We chatted about his new baby and his family and he promised to drive by mom's house and keep an eye on it.

My tall man? He won't be standing alone any time soon--I've got right on my side ... and I invested wisely as a young teacher.

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