“Where are we going?” my son asked.
“We’re going to deliver a gift.”
I saw our neighbor drive off. This was our chance. We looked both ways, hurried across the street, and left the brightly wrapped box on the doorstep. Who knew how much time we had? We hurried back home like nothing ever happened.
We knew we were taking a big risk. No one, absolutely no one dared step into this man’s yard, much less approach his door. If your ball rolled up on his lawn, you just left it there. If you were playing in the street and saw his front door open, you ran home. We didn’t even know his name, but we feared him nonetheless.
“We’re going to deliver a gift.” A Christmas ornament and cookies. Guaranteed to thaw a soul, right? At least we tried.
Every neighborhood has one. The one you fear. The one you avoid. The one you taunt. The one you watch from a distance. Where I grew up it was Old Man Somebody.” We didn’t know his name. We didn’t know anything about him. But we perpetuated the legend of the grouchiest, grumpiest, craziest elderly neighbor you could imagine. We would try to taunt him by shouting, “Hey, old man!” and running away. For some reason, when you are eight years old this is great fun. I never even saw the man, yet I was deathly afraid of him.
We got a thank you note. We got a thank you note from Mr. Critchfield, our across-the-street neighbor. From that moment on he waved when we were coming or going. He smiled when he saw us. We smiled at him.
We made a friend.