The sound of the skateboards was loud on the street, and it was after just after 11 p.m., on a Saturday night. I was walking my dog.
A neighbor, also walking her dog, grumbled and shook her head. “These skateboarders…”
I laughed awkwardly.
“Oops. Those are my boys, and their friends.”
Clearly this was not what she had expected. She expected a fellow grumbler, aggravated at the annoyance of disrespectful teens.
I didn’t get angry. Nor did I wholly defend my children. What I focused on, without hesitation, was the importance of making peace with the realities of living in a city; with coexisting alongside even the most annoying of your neighbors’ habits.
It is a constant refrain from me, that idea of how we must take a long deep breath and put up with the sirens and the babies crying and the perpetually defiant independence of these damn teens.
Believe me. My patience is tested on this as, most likely, is the patience of my neighbors. But I imagine that at one point or another, each and every one of those neighbors, just like my teens, just like me, might themselves need a bit of understanding.
Maybe their cat sneaks up the stairs and into my apartment. Maybe their construction job sends fumes through the floorboards. Maybe they have a baby who cries at all hours. And if I am doing my job, if I am working in whatever way I can to calm and collect myself about the trials and tribulations of city living, I tend to be able to get there fairly easily, to that place of understanding.
We are living in close proximity. My kids were actually headed off the street, toward the park, where she had suggested they go, but they needed to get there. And the poor infants who she was worried for, who were woken from their slumber…
“Well,” I told her, “I raised my kids to deal with the noise when they were babies, and they’ll sleep through anything now. So…”
Unfortunately, silence is something Brooklyn babies can hardly come to expect.
I apologize to my neighbors fairly routinely. For the parties. And the drums. And whatever else they have heard or had to deal with.
As I explained to my fellow late-night dog walker, my boys skating by loudly with a wave, “it’s all about how we communicate with one another. And understanding that we have to put up with some stuff in the city. No one’s ever going to be perfect.”
I explained that I was happy about these boys, out having fun together versus staying at home, quietly, with headphones, in front of video games. She seemed, maybe, to understand.
But I don’t know how she felt as she walked away. Maybe she was still super aggravated, and I’d given her even more fodder for her theory that all of these insensitive teens clearly get their insensitive behavior from their insensitive parents, which is indeed one way of seeing it.
Or, maybe, just maybe, she heard me as I kindly objected to vilifying these kids (and, by extension, their permissive parents) and she went home and imagined a neighborhood where we all give each other a little leeway, maybe even more than a little sometimes, so as to get more leeway in return.
Radiate positivity always. It will return to you.
That is the fortune I chose out of the box at Naidre’s cafe before I wrote this. Hard as that can be, and false as it can feel sometimes, I choose to believe that it’s true.
And I hope my neighbors do, too. No matter what, we don’t completely control the actions of those around us. And so we have to breathe, and move through some things, and assume best intentions. Otherwise we could be angry all the time at someone for something. That would be easy enough.