Friday, October 25, 2013

The Perfect Family

When we lived in Hampstead, Maryland; which is about 25 miles to the northwest of Baltimore; we lived next to the “perfect” family. It used to drive me nuts, seeing them trim the lawn together while I couldn't get my own kids to pitch in with the chores without resorting to out and out violence.

When it snowed the entire family; which consisted of “Fran” and “Vincent”, along with their two children; a daughter by her previous marriage and an infant son which they had together, all shoveled the driveway. Now, my own family was of a similar make up; with Sue’s two sons from her first marriage and an infant daughter of our own; so I was a bit miffed at what I perceived to be the better performance by my counterpart in the enemy camp; Vincent.

How was he able to pull off such feats as getting the family to do what they needed to do? And, further to my amazement, all of this was accomplished without the yelling and fighting which was kind of normal in our home.

I mean, this guy, when he washed his cars the whole family was out there. I washed ours alone. He had his infant son toddling after him with a toy mower when he did the lawn, my kids couldn't have cared less. And when the skies deposited 18 inches of snow one January day, they pulled their kids on a sled into town and had snowball fights on the front lawn. My own children were glued to an Atari game.

Their family even grocery shopped together! It drove me mad. Until one day when I noticed that “Fran” was often to be seen in the parking lot of the local Shell station talking for hours with the local policeman; we only had one in the town at the time; or with some of the many young volunteer firefighters. You couldn't swear that there was anything untoward about this behavior, but at the same time it did seem odd.

Time passed; we lived in that house for 11 years; and we had seen 2 different neighbors come and go before “Vincent” and “Fran”. Little did we know that we would soon be seeing them depart as well. The signs were there; the family was not out as often together, and “Vincent” seemed to be spending more and more nights working late at the office. Gone was his joyful demeanor, replaced with a grim resignation to do his duty as a parent to his children.

Where was “Fran”? The lovely neighbor next door had moved in with one of the young firefighters, initially even taking her 14 year old daughter with her! “Vincent” put a stop to that and soon was raising both kids by himself, while “Fran” was making the rounds of the local firefighters.

I don't know whatever happened to them , or the children. But I do know that my impression of my own family changed as a result of the incident, and I found myself more and more content with my own "imperfect" wife and children.

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