When we arrived six months ago our neighbours showered us with gifts. Giant chocolate chip cookies, homemade brownies, sidewalk chalk, colouring in books and pencils and a book about South Africa that was 20 years old (that gift from a neighbour who was cleaning out her basement and had misheard the part about us being Australian but having moved from South Africa).
You name it, they bought it to our door with their best wishes and curiosity about who exactly it was that was now in the house that had lain empty for so long. In our special new ‘hood there is also an official welcoming committee chairperson; they bought a big hamper overflowing with supermarket items and vouchers for local restaurants.
I had my children write the thank you notes and return the door knocks as I was busy unpacking and arranging and being overwhelmed by a country move that was knocking the polish off my expat princess ways by actually having to do it all myself.
Even so, I was excited by the house for sale a few doors down; when it sold I was determined to be a first responder in the welcome cookie stakes. I didn’t know the current residents, they had not been door knockers at our house, but I didn’t wish them ill – just a speedy sale so I could bake for the new guys.
The house lay empty over the summer and the autumn/fall and some of the winter and then a couple of weeks ago there was moving trucks. Within a week one family had moved out another in. I was excited, I must make those biscuits I thought. What kind? Should I do brownies? What might they like? Did they have kids? Are they going to be Paleo or GF people? That could be a problem. Then I kind of forgot, filed the thoughts in that place in my brain called ‘do that later’.
One morning last week after we had walked a full five houses to the school bus stop in 2 degrees and icy rain at 7.24am I was trudging home only to see the bus stop outside the new house, RIGHT AT THEIR DRIVEWAY. This did not make me happy. I was cold and wet and wondering why did they get a new bus stop and not us? I tossed the options; perhaps my cookie making would be better served to bring around Miss M the bus driver. Could I get my own bus stop I wondered?
It didn’t look good for their chances to experience my amateur and limited baking skills. First impressions count, forget the part where I hadn’t even met them yet.
The next morning I did meet them at the bus stop. Paula and her two lovely children, one in Kindergarten just like WASYO and one three year old. Turns out they had missed the bus and Miss M was doing them a solid and stopping to pick them up on the way.
We chatted all the way back to our house and then stood at the mail box for forty five minutes exchanging life histories; me in my pj’s (remembering its dark and cold at 7.20am when we leave the house so pj’s with some kind of cover up work well then, not so much at 8.30). They moved from New Jersey, she gave up her job to move with her husband’s work, she was not loving it so far, there had been tears. Relate, relate, relate. The cookies were definitely back on. I could have another friend in the street, a drop in, keep my kids kind of friend.
I was eager to help my new friend Paula immediately, so I shot off an email to our class mother at school to ask about the class parent for her son’s class; she didn’t have any email or phone contacts for other parents and her son wanted to set up play dates. I copied her on the email to show my speedy action and thoughtfulness. I soon received two replies, our class mom was right on it and included contacts. Paula replied to say her name wasn’t Paula – it was Donna.
It made perfect sense of course because her email address did start with a d.
It was a set back but I wasn’t totally deterred, who doesn’t make a mistake with a name every once in a while? Right? I pushed on to the next project – the biscuits. I thought I could recover if we scored points there. I made ANZAC biscuits for the first time in my life, they weren’t terrible and so were deemed acceptable to pass onto Paula/Donna and family that afternoon after school.
Thank you, lovely, no allergies, no special dietary requirements – all looking good.
Had an email later to say that they were so good the three year old had been found in her closet after being AWOL, finishing a few extra above and beyond the ‘one before dinner’ she had been allowed. This perhaps should have produced a sense of foreboding but somehow did not.
The next morning at the bus stop Donna appeared – exhausted, she hadn’t slept all night because someone who had eaten all the cookies had been up all night vomiting and was now at home sleeping it off.
I am still hopeful, what do you think of my chances? Any tips for what not to do next?