|Paloma Volare, Landa Lakes, reigning Grand Duchess of Alameda Lady Cranberry, San Franciscoâ€™s reigning Grand Duchess Cookie Dough and columnist Pollo Del Mar represented the Bay Area Jan. 15 at Renoâ€™s Ducal Ball.
Notorious Sainted Glamazon About Town
Several days each week, Iâ€™m startled from my sleep by the sound of a chair scraping the floor above my head. My upstairs neighborsâ€™ kitchen table is located directly above my bed, and it seems they think nothing of dragging their seats across the tile as early as 6 a.m. While it irritates me, almost six years in my apartment have taught me to bury my head in the pillows. Eventually, you learn to tune it out.
At least once a week, I awake to the sound of yelling. For a while, during a period when the woman was merely babysitting her infant grandchild, it happened far less frequently. Apparently itâ€™s unfulfilling to scream at a baby. Now that the girl is a little older, a grandson has arrived, and a beautiful pre-teen foster child has come to stay, the shouting has become routine. And vicious.
This morning, I awoke to a string of profanities directed at her 2-year-old grandson. Obviously he had done something to make my neighbor unhappy. â€śKnock that shit off, goddammit!â€ť her shrill voice came through my ceiling. â€śWhat is your fucking problem? Iâ€™m sick of this!â€ť
There was no getting back to sleep after that. It made my stomach turn. Even though I pulled the covers up to smother out the sound, hoping it would pass soon, it was no use. Her voice, and those words, ran through my mind. It blocked out everything else, including thoughts of my fantastic weekend trip to Reno, which was intended to be the topic of this weekâ€™s column.
Iâ€™ve been aware for some time that the lady upstairs has her â€śquirks.â€ť Sheâ€™s the [stereo]typical older woman who feeds pigeons in front of the house and feral cats in her backyard (which happens to be my front yard). In fact, each of the wild felines has a name â€“ â€śSocks! Princess! Pummmmpkin!â€ť â€” she calls when putting out their daily meals.
My neighborâ€™s the type to engage a total stranger (as many of my friends can attest) in lengthy, often unwanted conversation. The comings-and-goings of those who live around us appear to be the most exciting elements of her life, and sheâ€™s more than willing to divulge all she knows to any who shows the slightest interest. It is why, for the most part, I have long tried my best to avoid any unnecessary contact with her.
More recently, though, I steer clear of her because the shouting comes increasingly often â€“ and has grown in severity. The things she says to those children make me so uncomfortable, I canâ€™t look at her without hearing the biting diatribes.
For a long time, I shook my head in disgust when she would begin. (Itâ€™s not just in the morning that she yells; after school is another favorite time for her.) Because I, too, came from a home where screaming was common, I thought less of it than perhaps I should for far too long. Maybe my own childhood desensitized me to it. Itâ€™s possible that, having made it through a similar experience growing up, I discounted the long-term impact of her actions on those kids.
Recently, though, I reached a new level of awareness of her actions. Just before Christmas, a friend came to stay with me for a week. One morning, we woke up to one of her tantrums.
â€śI know some awful things have happened, but just get over it!â€ť my neighbor screamed at the 12-year-old orphan who came to stay with her approximately two years ago, when her single mother passed away. â€śMy life wasnâ€™t easy either! Iâ€™m tired of your whining!â€ť
The expression on my friendâ€™s face spoke volumes. He only recently entered therapy to work through his own issues, many of which stem from a childhood in a verbally and emotionally abusive home. What was transpiring upstairs obviously brought all of those to the surface.
â€śI canâ€™t stop thinking about your neighbor,â€ť he said hours later, still visibly processing the events of the morning. â€śSomeone needs to stand up for that little girl.â€ť
Heâ€™s absolutely right, of course. And, since that time, I have been more torn than ever about how I should do that.
All along, I have wanted to say something my neighbor â€“ to at least make it known I can hear what she is saying through the walls, and it makes me feel uncomfortable â€“ but have feared the impact that would have on our inevitable interactions. I have considered mentioning it to the grandchildrenâ€™s mother, who may be unaware of the way her own mother speaks to the kids while she is away.
However, something in me instinctively feels my neighbor would blame the children for my intrusion. (â€śLook what you made me do!â€ť she once screamed at one of the kids after I heard something crash upstairs. â€śYouâ€™ve got me so upset that Iâ€™m dropping things!â€ť) My fear is it would only make matters worse.
And, if child protective services were to come and collect the foster child, where would they take her? Would a new environment be any safer than where she is now? The horror stories told by those who have come through the foster care system make me doubtful it would be any better.
Still, each time my neighbor launches into a new outburst, lets loose with a new string of four-letter words and name-calling, it becomes increasingly obvious that something must be done. My friend is right, somebody has to stand up for those children.
Just because he and I managed to make it through childhood with only manageable emotional scarring doesnâ€™t mean these children should have to.
Unfortunately, it feels increasingly like I may be the only one even aware (or who cares) itâ€™s happening.
But what do I do? What steps are appropriate and necessary to help? I wish there was a simple, clear-cut solution, but there isnâ€™t. Every action brings potential repercussions, and I feel paralyzed by the possibilities. Honestly, Iâ€™m not sure what Iâ€™ll do the next time the yelling starts.
The one thing I know I canâ€™t do, though, is pull up the covers and wait for it to pass. Unlike the scraping of kitchen chairs on tile, this is something I canâ€™t simply learn to tune out. Nor do I want to.
Those children deserve better.
Follow â€śThe Glamazonâ€ť at Twitter.com/TheGlamazonPDM. Email her directly at Pollo_DelMar@Yahoo.com.