We moved into our house in Reedy Creek, just south of Forest Hill, nine years ago. Immediately after we moved in — no, as we were moving in — we met the Neighborhood Watch committee.
Most Neighborhood Watches are made up of concerned neighbors if you're lucky and Barney Fife law-and-order types if you're not. We got really lucky. Our Neighborhood Watch is made up of grade-school kids on a motley assortment of bicycles, scooters and Big Wheels. And nothing, absolutely nothing, gets past them.
We unloaded our U-Haul under the watchful eye of Jasmine, age 7. She casually pedaled her pink Big Wheel past our house over and over as we hauled in furniture, books and appliances. She returned our greetings with a shy wave. The Neighborhood Watch doesn't talk, the Neighborhood Watch just watches.
As we settled into our house, we saw a lot of Jasmine's Big Wheel. If we were fixing the porch, she would appear. When the neighbor worked on his car, there she was. When the lady across the street planted flowers, Jasmine observed. My husband dubbed her Big Wheel the "Official Use Only Vehicle." Jasmine was all business.
Eventually, Jasmine and her family moved, but the Neighborhood Watch continued with replacement staff. When our house was broken into, the Neighborhood Watch was able to describe the two guys who did it down to the sports teams on their jerseys, telling us how they knocked repeatedly, then peered in the window, then went around back. Of course, the Neighborhood Watch didn't tell anyone while it was happening — they just watched. I would like to think that Jasmine wouldn't have let that one slide. It almost makes you wistful for the Barney Fife types. Almost.
Since The Boy came along, the Neighborhood Watch has added a Division of Parenting to their roster of services. JaVon, whom my readers have met before, heads up this division and is particularly concerned about my husband's employment status.
"Are you even looking for work?" he will ask with barely contained irritation each time they cross paths on a weekday. One day, while JaVon was at our house watching cartoons with The Boy, I called to see how things were going. My husband reported that his guest perked right up when the phone rang.
"Maybe that's somebody calling you about a job," he said hopefully.
"JaVon, I've told you before, I'm not looking for a job. My job is to stay at home and take care of The Boy," my husband reminded him.
JaVon shook his head. "You ain't a grandma, you know," he said with disgust.
This past weekend, I actually took some time to clean my car out. The Neighborhood Watch came out in force to avail themselves of the umpty-million Transformers and toy guns I was fishing out of the seat cushions — and to question my parenting choices.
"You know, he's old enough to be in Head Start," Derrick recommended. "He could be learning all kinds of things in Head Start, and it's fun."
"I tried to get him to say his ABCs," Marquis said, frowning with concern. "He only went up to G, and then he laughed and ran away. Does he even know his ABCs?"
"Guys," I said, rounding them all up by the curb. "He's 3 years old. Yes, he could go to Head Start. Yes, he would probably learn stuff there. Right now, though, he's fine. He's staying home with his dad, he's learning plenty and we're good with that for the moment. Got it?"
The Neighborhood Watch team looked at each other nervously. The head of the Parenting Division appeared to be at a loss. He kicked at the curb a little bit, then peered into the open trunk of my car.
"Your trunk is really dirty," he observed. "My mama takes her car up to the car wash on Midlothian. You should vacuum it like she does. Every week. Keep it really nice."
It's good to know somebody's looking out for us.