Monthly Archives: August 2015

How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Neighborhood in Five Easy Steps

www.melindawentzel.comSTEP 1: Adopt a Home Owner’s Association and fill its board primarily with self-important individuals who are more than happy to tell you what’s wrong with your house and the people who live inside it, effectively sucking every ounce of joy from your life. Be sure to choose hardy individuals willing to martyr themselves completely, for they must possess enough stamina to police the neighborhood day and night, clipboards in hand, in search of covenant violations, petty though they might be. Heaven forbid the size, shape or molecular structure of someone’s mailbox is out of compliance with the current standards of excellence or that someone’s garden gnome is two millimeters too tall—never mind that gardens aren’t permitted in the so-called Utopia in question. Nor are tree houses or free-range cats.

STEP 2: Create an atmosphere of mistrust, miscommunication and divisiveness within the populace, pitting neighbor against neighbor all in the name of upholding the precious set of directives originally designed to protect property values and maintain order. It’s more important for people to fear each other and the long arm of the law than to be neighborly.

STEP 3: Rewrite the rules of governance to the benefit of the heavy-handed regime, crushing the souls of the little people in the process, without so much as considering the wishes of those affected by such sweeping changes. Stifle the powerless voice of reason whenever and wherever possible. Democracy be damned.www.melindawentzel.com

STEP 4: Throw common sense out the window and into the front lawn for all to see and ruminate upon (i.e. cite homeowners for painting their front doors, repairing their leaky roofs and ridding their yards of overgrown shrubbery and dead trees, replacing them with perfectly wonderful substitutes). Never under any circumstances trust that proprietors might possess the ability to choose an appropriately hued shutter, let alone an entire roof of shingles. Oh, the horror! Threaten legal action at every turn, even when it’s clear that people are doing all they can to improve and revitalize their properties by adding beautiful decks, patios and pools as well as breathing new life into tired trappings.

STEP 5: Just for fun, and on occasion, send out patronizing letters that fuel collective paranoia, outlining the specifics regarding disciplinary action that will potentially take place in the event of noncompliance, reminding everyone how awful it feels to live under such tyranny. In this way, the Negativity Machine will remain well oiled, ensuring the ruination of a perfectly good neighborhood.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Rantings & Ravings, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

A Kinder, Gentler Sort of Summer

www.melindawentzel.comI don’t remember my summers as a kid being the least bit hectic, never mind structured. As I recall, summer was an exercise in deliverance and spontaneity—an intoxicating river of endless days and weeks, blurred at the edges, verdant at its core, punctuated by dozens upon dozens of delicious remembrances that pool in the corners of my mind even still.

There was no glorified schedule or master plan that bound me to times or places, unless you consider the regularity with which my dad and I watched late-night Yankees games together in our living room, the ceaseless drone of the big box fan humming in the background like a raspy biplane. There were no obligatory to-do-list items I felt necessarily compelled to realize before heading back to school either, except, of course, the ones that involved harvesting baseball cards, tooling around on my banana seat bike and acquiring a new pair of Converse All-Stars. Low-tops. Black.

Summer was a time to relax, recondition and, on occasion, run away from home—an impulsive act of stupidity, inspired largely by gypsies and like-minded 11-year-olds who felt stifled by boundaries of the parental variety. But I digress. Of all the seasons of my childhood, summer was far and away the most delectable.

That said, my younger brother and I practically lived in our backyard swimming pool, until the laze and haze of August segued into the rush of September, its bright yellow school buses and freshly waxed floors jolting us back to a different sort of reality. When we weren’t paddling around in big, rubber inner tubes or diving to the bottom in search of stones or coins, we could be found at the water’s edge immersed in a game of checkers on a giant beach towel, an island of sundrenched bliss. Other days we’d disappear deep into the woods, climbing trees and cobbling together all manner of poorly constructed forts with a motley crew of neighborhood kids, hammers and nails we www.melindawentzel.compilfered from our fathers and wood scraps we managed to haul there, one armload after another. Brambles and poison ivy be damned.

We logged countless hours of Wiffle ball and badminton, too, threw Frisbees at dusk till no one could reliably see and lay in the cool grass, pausing just long enough to watch the vermillion skies fade to purple, then to wooly gray and eventually, to an inky black canvas dotted with a smattering of stars—some bright, some barely discernible as the shroud of night consumed every tree, thicket and barefoot child in its path. Multitudes of fireflies took center stage then, materializing out of nothingness it seemed, ushering in the goodness of many a summer’s night.

Shortly thereafter, we assembled the masses for hide-and-seek, a spirited game hopelessly devoted to perpetuity and the governance of an ungodly amount of acreage, encompassing the far reaches of one’s neighborhood long after the woods grew thick with mosquitos and alive with a chorus of crickets. Sweat-soaked and breathless from giving chase, we eventually headed home, having heard the familiar thwack of a certain screen door coupled with our parents’ demands to come inside, signaling an end to this and so many good nights of summer. But our bedrooms would soon be dappled with the morning sunlight, and the promise of yet another endless day of summer beckoned unremittingly.

By today’s standards, I fear what I’ve described above would qualify as dreadfully dull. There were no cell phones to speak of, no iPads in existence and not a single app involving demonic monkeys or angry birds had been so much as imagined. By and large, moms didn’t run taxi services for their children in the summertime. Nor did they farm them out to an embarrassment of camps or overload their schedules with a glut of culture and tutelage and the insanity that fuels organized sports.

Times were simpler then. Less harried, and more memorable, methinks. Perhaps because the tapestry of summer was woven at a kinder, gentler pace, helping us all to find joy in the ordinary.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (remembering when summer was really summer). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Endless Summer