Happy to have a new kid around

New neighbors just moved in across the street. One always holds one’s breath when the moving truck pulls up, but it appears they are delightful. I find having delightful neighbors to be rather like winning at the slot machines. Unexpected, and a great stroke of luck.
Best of all, they have a 4-year-old daughter. I love having youngsters fill the neighborhood. It works in my favor, since they will eventually mow my lawn, walk my dogs and even pull a few weeds for the right price. But I like kids around mostly because they are the funniest things on the planet. They say and do hilarious things on a regular basis and since mine had the poor judgment to grow up, get less spontaneous and stop laughing at my jokes, I have to find new recruits.
I admit I have an advantage in my job as librarian at the local elementary school. Almost any child in my neighborhood under the age of 20 knows who I am. I don’t always recognize them as they get tall and beautiful, but I love the sound of “Hey, Mrs. G!” as they skateboard or bicycle by. And of course there is Halloween, when I shamelessly bribe them with large handfuls of candy, rave reviews of their costumes and the occasional hot dog. I need somebody to tell my knock-knock jokes to. I need somebody (besides me) who thinks it’s hilarious when I wear my nightgown and curlers to school on pajama day. And one cannot get enough of those around-the-knees hugs.
I hold fast to the theory that if you make them your friend early, when it comes time to decide whose house to toilet paper, whose mailbox to knock over or whose pumpkins to smash, you will be exempt. Hey, it’s worked so far.
Then last week at school, the word went out, “A 4-year-old boy is missing on campus, green shirt, blue jeans.” I felt that unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach, at the same time smiling at the recollection of how a child under the age of 5 can move at the speed of light. You look left, he goes right and, boom, you spend the next several minutes running in circles trying to outthink him. The campus was a great place to misplace him, since it is filled with moms who know the syndrome and the drill. They fanned out, checked every nook, and he was back in tow in five minutes. But heaven only knows how far he got in those five minutes.
You can laugh about those things eventually, after you decide whether to lock the child in the closet for a month or just hug them until they holler for air.
In honor of my newest, youngest neighbor, I may even break out my sidewalk chalk. Yes, of course I still have some. Doesn’t everybody?

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