How does that annoying song go for that long-running Aussie soap go? Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours? But do we? And how each of us defines ‘good’, is sure to differ. Most people will have a well-meaning Mrs Buchanan character in their lives, neighbour or not. And most will have devised a way to deal with such characters, with varying degrees of success.
Mum Hid In the Pantry
Mrs Buchanan stood on the doorstep, her hand raised preparing to pound on the door once more. Mum peeped through the thin lace curtain, unseen. Oh no, not Mrs Buchanan. I cannot face a visit from her today, Mum’s internal thoughts raced. Hide, pretend to not be home. She sunk to the floor and wiggled her body along the lounge carpet, along the wooden hallway and across the kitchen lino. The impatient knocking of her neighbour continued, growing ever louder, ever faster. Mum edged open the flimsy swing door of the pantry and slithered in. She’d forgotten the crate of beer Joseph had shoved into the pantry and bashed her elbow on the sharp corner. Suppressing a scream, she drew her body into a crouch and duck-waddled into the furthermost corner. Her head knocked the lowest shelf, upturning the open bag of flour. The flour cascaded through her hair and over her body. There came rapping at the kitchen window followed by shouting. ‘Janey, are you home?’
‘No, I am not at home’, Mum spluttered through the flour. ‘Go away.’ With a creak, the knob of the back door turned, followed by the door squeaking as it opened.
‘Janey?’ Footsteps on the lino floor.
Mum pinched her nose, fighting a sneeze.
The swing door flung open, smashing into the crate.
‘Janey! What on earth?’
Janey raised a finger to her lips. ‘Ssssh, hide and seek. I’m hiding from the children,’ she croaked through her mask of flour.
‘The children? It’s a school day, Janey. The children are at school.’
The bulk of Mrs Buchanan lent forward and hauled mum to her feet, leading her to the kitchen.
‘Really? You mean the children aren’t here?’ Mum dusted the flour from her face, from her body.
‘Sit down, my dear. I’ll put the kettle on.’
Mum slumped into a chair.
‘You know I had an aunt who had similar episodes.’
‘Yes, episodes similar to what you’ve just experienced, imagining scenarios. Her behaviour became increasingly alarming, poor dear. Eventually, we had to admit her for her own safety.’ Mrs Buchanan filled the kettle and plugged it in. She dropped tea bags into the teapot and took two cups from the side cabinet.
‘But that won’t happen with you.’ She turned from the bench and patted Mum’s hand. ‘No, we won’t allow it. A suppressed trauma has triggered this.’ Mrs Buchanan waved her arm airily. ‘We’ve caught it in time and with counselling sessions, we can beat this.’
Puffs of flour floated to the table as Mum nodded her head.
Mrs Buchanan poured the boiled water into the teapot.
‘And I’ll come by every day.’
‘Oh Mrs Buchanan, that’s very kind but I wouldn’t want to impose.’
‘Nonsense. It’s the least I can do.’ Mrs Buchanan chuckled. You are quite a sight, Janey. Imagine if your children had found you crouched, hiding in the pantry covered in flour.’
She poured the tea into the cups.
‘It’s fortuitous that I came by today and found you. I’ll visit every day and together, we’ll get through this.’