Sunday, April 20, 2014

Of local crime and country cousins

Back about 20 years ago when I informed my family back in southwestern – translation: rural – Indiana that I was going to move to Indianapolis, they looked at me aghast.

 “Why would you go to the city? It’s dangerous there. What are you thinking?!”

My Uncle Larry was getting ready to drive up to supply me with a fire arm because he thought I was living in a rough part of town. Aunt Shirley talked him off the ledge and he was relieved to find out I wasn't in the ghetto but they all worried.


I didn't. Sure, for Indiana, the capitol city is big, but it's not the mean streets of New York or LA or well, anywhere.  It’s just a small town spread out across a bigger swath than what I was used to. 

It’s always felt safe to me. There’s a ton to do. There are new people to meet and things to try. Alison loves to visit what she calls “the country” but she can’t imagine living without so many take-out options and high-speed Internet. 


But it’s literally been a bloody awful time in Indianapolis the last several months. Shootings and assaults. It’s been terrible. Nothing that’s touched us personally but it’s unsettling. I love this city.  I want to stay here. So I’ve been pondering how could I – and ordinary people like me – make a difference and reclaim the Indy I met two decades ago.


Just this week: 


One of our neighbors came by to show off shoes he used to run the Boston Marathon. They’re commemorative and super cool and Mark came by with them because Jeff had agreed to watch the mail for him while he was out of town and apparently FedX them to Boston if need be. Mark was happy they arrived early and we're happy to keep watch over his house while he's out of town. He does the same for us. This winter we worked as a tandem to shovel snow from our driveways.


Later in the week, Alison walked over to another neighbor to ask if she could scavenge a fun treasure box from the trash he’d set out. No problem, he said to the kid who routinely drops over with sample from her latest baking experiments.


When we were walking the other day, we ran into a family with dogs, got to talking, and I asked if she was new to the neighborhood. She wasn’t. She’s one hood over, “But I remember your daughter because she gave us some baked treats one day when we were out walking.”

Friday evening we were strolling again and ran into neighbors one street up who we hadn't me even though they've been here for seven years and we've been here for 15. They have two little girls and as Jeff and I talked to our new friend Chris -- he's used to be in charge of golf courses and may help me with my lawn problems -- Ali played with the girls. It could turn into a babysitting gig.

And then, on the way to Shakamak State Park for our family Easter gathering, Ricky (the neighbor who was going to trash a perfectly cool box!) called to see if Ali could babysit while he and his wife went to the Pacer game. It cut short our Easter trip but it was well worth it according to Alison's savings account.


So maybe it’s as simple as that. Be friendly. Talk to your neighbors. Give ‘em a cupcake if you have one extra. 

I'm not so naive as to think a few walks around the yard and some neighborly chore swapping is going to stop criminals from breaking into homes, or to stop people from using drugs and then having such trouble with their supply and/or demand that it leads to violence.

But I do know this: we’re better together. And we're better when we know our neighbors. 

I'm getting out more. And just for insurance, I'm bringing baked goods on occasion.

In other news, back in the country, our annual Easter egg hunt took a turn. We had the Easter Olympics instead. My team -- picked at random -- came in second only because I was the only one who saw the rabbit ears move when Marie took her turn at the rubber ducky shooting range.  We also lost (badly) at blind peep sculpting and blind drawing. I think we were in the middle of the pack when it came to twister. 

We won at redneck curling, though -- street hockey sticks, duct tape rolls and chalk -- and we broke a world record at egg bobbing.

Alison made the mistake of attacking Jason and stealing his hat. I'm not exaggerating one bit when I say a collective gasp you could hear on Main Street went up when she snatched the hat. You don't mess with Jason, man. She somehow lost her shoe in the melee and she's still complaining about the big, bad man "who beats children with their own shoes!"

She may have learned a lesson there. We'll see next time she crosses his path.

It was great fun. 

Our other adventures included Ali and me pulling up moss from the back yard and the three of us raking up the front. We ended up with 10 enormous bags of yard waste and a football field of moss. Sadly, there's a ton more moss. I'm hoing the new shed we build this summer will cover most of the rest of it.

If I can't walk or move my arms tomorrow, I'm blaming the yard work. You'd think an Easter Olympian would be in better shape...

Alison wanted to have her own egg hunt at home like she always has done. I was happy to play the rabbit and hid about 75 eggs in and around the house. She needed help finding the one in the gas tank but there's no dissuading her when she thinks a prize is involved.  

I put a few silly notes in some of her eggs, along with coins and candy and new supplies for her Rainbow Loom. She's definitely growing up. But there's still plenty of little girl in there. Thank goodness.

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