It’s demoralizing to have one’s rubbish examined by one’s neighbor and be found wanting, is it not? Such was the case yesterday, when the woman from the house on the corner knocked on my door a few minutes after I’d arranged our garbage on the curb at the end of my driveway.
“So sorry to bother you,” she says, “but I was wondering if my husband could take the tricycle you’ve left by your bin to Goodwill. Because then it could be enjoyed by another child?”
“Do you know,” I say, “I don’t think it could, actually. It’s broken.”
“Perhaps it could be fixed,” she suggests (patiently). She is from Europe. She is unaware that I can read her mind, a fact which gives me no pleasure and certainly no advantage.
‘I wish it could,” I reply. “We got it from the neighbors next door. Their two daughters outgrew it. Our daughters have ridden it pretty hard. I’m sure it’s beyond repair.” My girls thrashed the hell out of that trike. Still, I find myself justifying my garbage to this person.
“I wonder,” she counters, “if a disadvantaged child might still enjoy it.”
“Enjoy sitting on it, you mean?” I assume an expression of genuine contemplation. Yes, I can picture it. A dirt-encrusted girl with dubious hair (who is the spiting image of my four year-old) sits on the broken tricycle. “Why don’t the pedals move forward, Mommy?” she asks. “Because we’re poor, sweetie. We can only have broken things. Try to understand.”
My neighbor and I have reached a quick impasse. Perhaps she can read my mind, too. I hope not.