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When I was growing up, and I am sure when you were growing up, too,
there was usually a rundown house in the neighborhood in which lived an
elderly person. In my neighborhood, it was a woman. She lived alone, the
lawn was weedy, and the house needed painting.

We referred to her as “Crazy Mary” or, “the witch.”

I was around 10 years old at the time, and she could’ve been 50 or 60.
Didn’t matter – to us she was old. We’d dare each other to run in her yard,
but ran away when she came out to yell at us. I can’t remember what
happened to her or the house.

Now that I’m in my mid-50s, I know exactly what “the witch” was going
through because there are times I’m the neighborhood’s Mean Old Lady.

My house isn’t rundown, and my lawn hasn’t gone to weeds – quite
the opposite. That is why I get mad when I find children, deer or the
occasional adult, crossing my (unfortunately) un-fenced yard.

I have no children, and until the last few years, my street had few children
on it. But now my neighbors’ kids have kids, and some still live at home.
Three generations live in a house on one side of me, four generations now
live in the house behind, and my last neighbor said the new owner of his
just-sold house has a small child.

In short, I am now surrounded.

Perhaps if I’d had kids I would be more flexible about their random
wildness; the yelling; the running across property lines. After all, I was a kid
myself yelling and climbing over fences, and making messes.

However, I don’t have kids. I know they are capable of wonderful things, but
I rarely see it. To me, they are just noisy at a time when I get more easily
distracted by noise – especially now that I work from home. It has become
harder to concentrate as I’ve aged, and I used to live in some very noisy
neighborhoods in the past. But that was in the past when I was younger.

On occasion I’ve gotten into trouble with kids (and their parents) for
reprimanding them. Embarrassed, I apologize and calmly try to explain
myself. Luckily, we’ve worked things out – at least to the extent that no police
were ever called. I tell myself to leave them alone. As long as they keep
moving, and don’t harm anything, it’s OK. (I think this about deer, too.)

In this era of Facebook, I fear there is a page about a mean old lady with
my picture on it.

My husband and I enjoy the company of our relatives’ children, and when I let down my wariness to speak to some of the local kids, we are friendly to each
other. It doesn’t hurt waving at them, and saying hello.

Still, to them I am “old.” What goes around comes around. When I watch
parents with kids, I wonder about those decisions I made that will come
back to haunt me when I really become old.