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  • As I leave home to walk to Blufin to meet a friend for lunch, a woman steps out of a car with three dogs. With her black black hair and her black flowing dress, she stops to stare at me. I say hello. She says hello and continues to stare at me. Strangely, I think. I say hello to the dogs. I do not know what this woman wants or expects. Then, I see in the open door of the black car a baby in a baby seat, blond, probably less than a year old, but old enough to be alert and watching me.

    The woman is worried I will steal the child.

    At first, I feel a surge of pain, shame, anger. I am a “nice” person. I do not kidnap babies.

    Of course, I understand. I would do the same thing. If my baby or my grandbaby or any other child in my care was in the car and a stranger approached, I might even move closer, put myself between the stranger and the child.

    But why am I stranger practically in my own front yard and who is this woman two houses down from mine? I do not know her. Maybe she is the baby’s grandmother. The baby, I believe, lives there and belongs to the new couple that just moved in.

    The woman hands are full with three dogs and I consider offering to retrieve the baby from the car and bring her up to stand with the woman while she takes care of the dogs, but that would only frighten her, so walk on in silence.

    For some reason, I feel like crying.

    That house, the one two houses up, belonged to Pat, who was around my age, artistic, friendly, cheerful But it's a big old rambling house with lots of problems, and she needed a smaller space that was easier to maintain with her health issues, so she put the house on the market.

    It was purchased by a couple with an eight-year old girl. The first thing they did was cut down the huge gorgeous oak in the backyard. The oak was ten feet wide at the base and in perfect health. No it did not have heart rot. Its trunk was utterly solid. We wondered why they cut it down. We, and all our neighbors, were sad and angry about the tree.

    The man had a contracting business and while they lived there in the house, they fixed it up. It needed a near total overhaul. They worked and worked and worked on the house and every afternoon after school the little girl played alone in the backyard. The backyard was mostly cement, no lawn, trees, bushes. It was barren. She never once had a friend over and never once did one of her parents join her outside. She even played out there alone in the rain.

    One day, her play area shrank. Walls rose from the concrete and a brand new garage went up. At first we thought, that is why they cut down the oak, to put up the garage. But no. The new garage did not use the space where the oak had been. That only increased our dislike of the man who had ordered the removal of that gorgeous tree.

    Then one day, a for-sale sign came up in the yard like a mushroom. The new neighbors weren't fixing the house up for themselves, they were turning it around for profit. One more strike against them. They cut down that wonderful tree not for themselves, but for a sale. Pure meanness, my husband said. Something akin to murder, I thought, but did not say. We were still grieving the senseless death of that tree. We were not sad to see those neighbors go, though we worried about the little girl without a friend.

    So, a new family moved in. A young couple, with a baby. I pass them on the street and say hello. They say hello. It's not their fault that man cut down that tree. They might have loved it too, had it still been there.

    And none of this is the fault of the woman dressed in black who wants only to protect the child, as I would have done.

    Why then this sadness, this anger, this return to grief?

    Notes: oddly, on the office computer, there is no picture of our neighborhood. The image is of the Josephine Ford Playhouse at the Eleanor and Edsel Ford Estate.
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