The mobile home park into which we moved could have had Mr. Bubble potential. The place was teeming with kids. They were everywhere: playing with Matchbox cars in the middle of the street, stealing one another’s bikes, beating up weaklings, and darting mindlessly across the busy state highway that bordered the park. Soon after we moved in, strange kids (and I mean in all senses of the word) started knocking on my door and asking if they could come in to play.
“No, sweetheart,” I would tell them, “you can’t come in unless I talk to your mommy. I don’t know where you live. You don’t know me. Your parents will worry.”
Time and again they tried to assure me that their mom wouldn’t care. She wasn’t home. They were being watched by a big sister, mom’s boyfriend or nobody at all. I was probably the only stay-home mother within a quarter mile radius. For the first six months in our new home I was pretty lonely.
The mobile home lot next door to us had been empty when we moved in, but one day, two big trucks pulled up and delivered a brand new doublewide. The following day a passenger van was parked beside it. On the back of it were two bumper stickers. One said, “Get back to basics: Read the Bible.” The other proudly proclaimed, “I love my kids: We all buckle up.” A Christian family with kids! I was so excited.
Right away I baked a loaf of banana bread and trotted it over to their front door as fast as my pregnant little body with two toddlers in tow could take me. I knocked on the door, and when it opened, my heart sunk. There stood a teenage girl surrounded by four children, two elementary school aged girls and a pair of twin two-year-old boys. Bummer. Just another big sister babysitter.
“I live next door, and I baked some banana bread,” I said weakly. I was just about to ask if her mother was at home, but I sensed from the way the boys were clinging to her and rubbing their graham cracker snot on her legs that she was the mother. The girl looked like she could be no more than fifteen or sixteen years old. Biologically, it seemed unlikely, but clearly, these were her children.
“Come on in,” she smiled. “I’m Joyce. I’m so glad you didn’t ask me if my mother was home. Everybody asks me if my mother is home, and I always say, ‘Why don’t you call her and find out.’”