He didn’t suspect a thing. Our neighbor, Dan, was a general contractor who arrived home from work in his pickup truck about the same time each day. The first clue that something was amiss should have been that he saw no neighborhood children playing in the yards. My siblings and I were hiding behind the bushes locked and loaded along with his two children as comrades-in-arms.
My parents had recently introduced us to water balloon launchers, the two-man slingshot type. With the right balloon and technique, we were shown how you could send a hydra bomb sailing 100 yards or more. We were also warned that if they were aimed at glass or at close range at a person, they could break a window or cause a painful welt.
Frankly, we were shocked that our parents ever used such things. At the time, they were leading the formation of small faith communities at our church. While they both have a good sense of humor, it was a pleasant surprise to hear about their other side.
Mom and Dad explained that on a river rafting trip through the Grand Canyon (where they met), their wily riverboat captain had instigated using them against other unsuspecting rafters. We were old enough to use them responsibly, they said. Of course, we agreed.
On that hot July day, we listened as attentively as children can when eagerly awaiting their turn to use what we considered the mother of all weapons. Dan unsuspectingly pulled up the long common driveway. Our scout signaled with a wave of his hand. As our target made the left turn into his driveway, we gleefully hit him with all we had. Dan smiled and jestingly waved his fist at us as he headed for cover. Looking back, I’m grateful none of the broadsides dented his fender. So was my father, who served as our field marshal, and who looked more relieved than happy as we whooped it up after our first battle.
Some of my best childhood memories involved our neighbors. But looking back, I can now see that much of it simply wouldn’t have happened if my parents did not make it a priority to get-to-know our neighbors. I’m so glad they did even though some of their ideas of being neighborly were unconventional, and yet so much fun!
They say you get things honestly from your parents. In my case, my love for neighbors and neighborhood is certainly an inter-generational thing. My father tells me that his parents taught him by example. My grandpa on my mother’s side also modeled neighborliness for her and her siblings. My husband and I remain committed to passing on this family tradition. Now all I need to do is find a source for a water balloon launcher that has been battle-tested for over 100 yards. Fair warning, neighbors!
Stay tuned as I’ll recount more neighborhood memories, and some shenanigans, in this space. I hope you’re making some of your own.