The Way I See It

My Helmeted Hero

I have shockingly low comedic standards. Essentially everyone alive can make me laugh, and once you’ve made me laugh, I tend to like you and assume that you are an inherently nice and good person. For this reason, I like basically everyone I have ever interacted with. I kind of like that I can find a friendship in everyone, but it does, however, lead me to occasionally overlook some warning signs. The following is a short story that starts with me befriending the new girl down the street and ends with my father egging her house in the middle of the night. He was wearing rollerblades.

As stated above, I really like people. I think that fact that we’re all just living on this huge planet in this huge universe and interacting with each other casually while our hearts are pumping and our brains are calculating is amazing. Because I am so easily impressed by everyone I’ve ever seen, I trust almost anyone and just assume that we’ll be friends forever. This is an enduring characteristic of mine, but it was especially true of 14-year-old Kelly.

Society forgives your seventh-grade self. That awkward phase is a rite of passage into young adulthood and eventually real adulthood. You over-pluck your eyebrows, wear some black chokers, listen to power-pop and then recognize your mistakes and burn all the evidence. I never did the evidence burning, and seeing the photo below is crucial to understanding how my dad wound up rollerblading through my neighborhood under the cover of night like a regular hooligan.

seventh grade kfine

As you can see, I had prepubescent angst in spades. I wanted everyone to be my friend. I needed everyone to like me. Enter: The New Neighbor.

She moved in down the street the summer before seventh grade. She had already kissed a boy, had a big TV in her bedroom and knew how to apply eyeliner. I was overwhelmed by her coolness. We became best friends immediately.

However, our new best friendship became quickly strained by the fact that her Abercrombie jeans made her destined for middle school popularity, and my dreams of being on Broadway made me destined for something slightly less. If you need more explanation, see again the photo above.

Before long, we were markedly not friends. There were a lot of rumors involved, although the only one I specifically remember involved me begging The New Neighbor not to become friends with another Neighborhood Girl because said Neighborhood Girl was the gateway to popularity. I’m fairly certain that was not true, but I can’t make any promises.

Unfortunately for me, The New Neighbor lacked my devotion to maintaining any and all friendships. She was ruthless. My trusting, awkward 14-year-old self hadn't even brought a knife to the metaphorical gun fight, and it was painfully obvious who the victor of this seventh grade rumble would be.

My family rallied. Soon, my older sister Katie was standing with me at the bus stop to shield me from any of The New Neighbor’s mean remarks. My parents talked to her parents, but I still took to hiding in the choir room to avoid any unnecessary confrontation with what had become my very first enemy. These were dark days.

One Yom Kippur morning, my family headed outside for synagogue only to find that our house had been struck by a suburban nightmare: toilet paper. It was everywhere. I was mortified, my parents were angry, and our morning was spent raking streams of white, soggy TP out of our pecan trees.

The New Neighbor had won the war, or so I thought. I never retaliated because I was (and am) non-confrontational to a fault and deeply afraid of getting yelled at. Days passed with no word from The New Neighbor and I almost gained the courage to leave the choir room when suddenly, she was everywhere and she was angry. The walkway to her house, it seemed, had been egged. If teepeeing a house is the middle-class suburban equivalent of a war declaration, egging a house is an unannounced atomic bomb.

It didn’t matter that I was innocent. As far as I knew, her house had been egged by another of her scorned victims.  I was suddenly subject to even more AIM messages, texts, and Xanga comments than before, and even her parents began to glare at me from across the street. Otherwise, she never retaliated. I won the war, although I didn’t know how or why for several years.

Kristin, my eldest sister, casually mentioned my dad’s heroic actions 6 years later, after my high school graduation. She thought I knew. I was stunned. She told me how my 50-year-old dad donned his rollerblades, rolled down the street to her house, and tossed some eggs on her sidewalk. He was a hero in a helmet and I hadn’t even known.

The rest is history. The New Neighbor’s family still lives in the same house, and I think she attends some other Texas state school. I still tense up when passing her house, as if I’ll suddenly find myself transported back into my seventh grade skin and be forced to relive the trauma. I’ve never had a confrontation quite that big and scarring, and I sincerely hope I never do again. Because I like people, and because I’ll never get back those precious hours spent removing bath tissue from my parent’s front yard.