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Get off My Lawn
“Get off my lawn!” Norma shouted out her window. Her voice was lost among the noise of the crowdoutside by the detention center. She would never understand why her husband had loved this house. It was such a putrid shade of yellow, with peeling ceiling plaster and such terrible air circulation. Even with thousands of dollars in repairs and remodeling, it was still ugly as a moldy slice of pepperoni pizza; it actually looked like one too. Walls the color of macaroni, mismatched red couches and chairs, brown moldings lined the walls, and the ceiling was a pungent shade of green. Living across the street from a detention center had never been pleasant. Especially not this detention center. With its harsh gray cinderblock walls, high barbed wire fences and orange sand lot behind those fences, it was an eyesore. Now with all these protestors it had gotten even worse. It wasn’t even the protestors that made Norma so angry, for she had seen plenty of them in her life – they made life seem exciting. These protestors that made her want to throw rocks out the window. Some days she actually did throw rocks at them. She had never seen anything so frustrating. They just sat about on picnic blankets chatting, or singing. Sure they had signs, but other than the rare moments when they got up and started chanting, they just sat about doing practically nothing. If they had at least been raising Cain, it would not have been so infuriating to Norma. How did what they were doing have any effect? If they were going to be so apathetic, they should just go away. It’s not as if the refugees were granted asylum it would make a difference in their filthy, hippy lives.
“Mom, I’m going to do the laundry!” Michael shouted from the laundry room on the second floor of the house.
“My God, just do it, you know how! Do you really need to announce it to the whole house?” Norma snapped.
Michael walked towards the laundry room, swearing to himself that next time he had a break from his studies he’d go to his brother Joseph’s instead of coming back here. Every time he came he was forced to deal with his mothers crap. But, every time he thought of his poor, old mother sitting alone on one of her hard old chairs with no one to keep her company, he felt as though it was his duty as the youngest son to take care of her. Except she wasn’t poor, she could handle herself, and there was no reason it should be his duty instead of Joseph’s. Why come back to a place that didn’t hold any good memories. He couldn’t remember the last time she he saw a smile on his mother’s face, not even a hint of one in her eyes. She was so angry all the time. It was what had driven his dad out. She had never been an enjoyable person to be around, but lately with the frequent protestors, she was so much nastier. She would make snarky comments at everything he said, curse at protestors, calling them hippies and tell them to get off her lawn, then break his father’s antique vases that lined the halls when they didn’t listen. Joseph was so lucky he wasn’t here for this.
“Didn’t you hear me? I told you to get off my lawn or I’ll call the cops on all of you!” Again the mob of protestors didn’t acknowledge her. Angrily, she threw her cane aside into a large vase and stumbled out the door into the cloudy and depressing day outside, in a desperate attempt to save the lawn she had only begun to care for since the protestors had come. Her lawn was large, and stopped only about ten yards from the detention center. Those barefoot beatniks couldn’t seem to tell the difference between detention center property and Norma’s property. She shuffled hurriedly throughthe crowd trying with all her strength to reach the front so they could all see her as she banished them from her property and reclaimed her lawn.In her imagination, Norma could see it now. Her green grass cleared of hippie scum; fresh air circulating Getting lost in these thoughts changed her life. Or maybe it wasn’t the thoughts so much as the obliviousness to her surroundings they seemed to cause that lead to her tripping into a protestor.
“Oh, I’m sorry, am I in your way?” The protestor asked her voice thick with sincerity, so much so that it left Norma frozen in place for a few minutes. She had a bright green hat with the name Willow embroidered onto it on her head at a jaunty angle. “You must be awfully cold” Willow continued as she glanced at Norma.
Willow was right; Norma was cold, freezing in fact. She had been so pumped full of anger, she had run out in only her nightgown and slippers, and not even noticed. Willow placed a bundle of blankets in Norma’s hands. She peeked inside, and saw a gurgling baby so full of life, it seemed to entrance her. Suddenly something else was put in her hands, a cup of tea. From the looks of it, the woman’s last cup of tea.
What kind of woman is she? Norma thought, sipping at her tea as she stared at Willow’s gently smiling face, Willow’s eye lit up in such a way that she seemed to be glowing. The protestor had taken back her child and was now rifling through her bag, cradling the baby in one of her slim arms, still managing to express her love towards the baby even though she wasn’t paying it much attention. It was so different from when she had held Michael or Joseph. It had always been a half-hearted gesture, a necessity for the child to survive, never a way to convey her love. Now that she thought about it, Norma really hadn’t felt much love since before Joseph had been born. That’s when her father had died. Norma been talking to him the day before, and he promised he’d be there when Joseph was born. The fact that he never seemed to fulfill his promises had taken up what seemed like a permanent residence in Norma’s mind. It was a feel that resonated in her heart every time she took a look at anything that made her remember that unreliable father of hers. Norma shook away the thought, right now she really didn’t want to be thinking of bad things now.
Norma and Willow talked for about an hour. They chatted about their lives, their families and children. Willow talked for the most part during that conversation because Norma found she really didn’t know what to say. She didn’t have anything to say. Then they swapped beauty tips. Norma knew her now gray hair could never go back to being the chestnut brown color that had once made her the picture of beauty. Willow’s straight hair made her look very much like Norma as a young lady, although with her ‘Save the Whales’ T-shirt and mom jeans, Willow had a very different dressing style. Norma found herself wishing that the conversation would last forever.
“So why are you protesting here?” Willow asked as the chanting begun. Norma gulped; she had been avoiding this topic for a reason. She wasn’t a protestor; she didn’t even see anything wrong or how the protestors here were doing anything. As Norma panicked silently, Willow began to speak again, “I’m here because of one of the refugees named Amne. Her village back in Africa was destroyed.She and her family have really changed my life. They’ve opened my eyes to all the horrors that happen around the world. If she gets out my husband and I have agreed to sponsor her family.”
Willow pulled out a thick yellow envelope and handed it to Norma, who pulled out the papers inside and began to flip through them. There were pictures, drawings and letters, all of them from Amne. They showed her with her family in her village and talked about her life.There were drawings of what Amne figured would be the ideal life. She had drawn pictures of a school and a house. Looking up at Willow, Norma realized that the impact these refugees had on the protestors lives was, if fact tremendous. If these refugees were sent back to their home country, there would be so many heartbroken people, people who had spent these months battling for the refugees as it was them in their shoes. Theysent letters to government officials and comforting the families by sending them these cheerful letters. If they were granted asylum, a lot of protestors would have new months to feed, larger families.
Norma handed the envelope back to Willow and left without a word of good bye. She had an epiphany while looking through those pictures. The world she lived in was in fact in a great deal of trouble. She had spent all those weeks shouting at the protestors for wasting their time when it was she who had been wasting her time. She could have been trying to help, if not the refugees but at least those around her. Instead she had been sitting around shouting angrily. She staggered off back towards her house and pulled the door open, seating herself in a chair. Usually by now she would be furious for some silly reason, but right now she didn’t have the anger in her. She hoped she never would again. She had been angry enough to last a lifetime; she had been always been angry and thought she always would be. Now it was gone, w=she felt so empty, emotionless.
“Hey Mom, I finished the laundry!” Michael shouted from the laundry room, regretting it the second the words had left his mouth. He braced himself for his mother’s reply, only to be surprised by the loud silence that filled.
“I’ll help you put it away!” Norma shouted back, as she marched down the hall towards the laundry room.