I walked into the small classroom ready to take on my assigned task.
The school children had been given envelopes the week prior explaining Santa Shop.
They could bring in a list of family and friends to buy for with their money.
Their money that was taped up into the envelope they now had in their little hands.
They could buy a pen that said MOM on it for fifty cents.
Or a wooden back scratcher for grandpa that cost two dollars.
I was assigned to stand behind the tables and if someone wanted that MOM pen, I could retrieve it for them from the large stock behind me.
I was already at my station when she showed up.
She being my neighbor.
I don't really have neighbors where I live.
We are surrounded by a wooded area and a cornfield.
But the house that I can see from my side yard, the house down the road, is what I consider my neighbor.
A few of the neighbor's dogs have wandered down into our yard in the past.
The wife has a best friend.
Who just happens to be the mother of one of my daughter's friends.
They have a horse.
We have a horse.
The husband told me once that his wife would be jealous that we have goats, since she wants goats.
And the husband has picked up horse manure from us a few times since his side business was lawn and garden maintenance.
I know things they probably wouldn't think I would know.
We've chatted at Rural King a few times.
They have two children.
Right in between the ages of my children.
Once she was having a yard sale.
I don't like yard sales.
I have too much crap myself so I don't need to buy other people's crap.
But I stopped and introduced myself as her neighbor.
And my kids asked if they could play in her yard while we talked.
I think her children were in the house sleeping.
I remember thinking that it was a warm summer day and her kids were not outside.
And I found that to be odd.
They are seldom seen in their yard.
Here's the thing.
I know them.
I know them simply because they live in the closest house to mine.
But when she walked into that small classroom to help with the Santa Shop, she didn't seem to have any idea who I was.
I went over to her, since she had made zero attempt to come over by me, and said what came naturally.
"Hello, how are you? I'm your neighbor."
Stares and silence.
"I live next to the horse trail."
So I join in with the stares.
She finally spoke.
"Umm, the horse trail?"
(My house is the ONLY house next to the horse trail)
"Yes, the horse trail" I replied.
Waiting, I'm waiting.
"Oh...oh...oh...uh...yes. I know you. My neighbor".
You don't know me.
It became evident that very moment.
Either that or she's just very dull.
In this modern age we now live in, it hit my like a brick thrown to my head...she didn't want to know her neighbor.
How is it possible that I know you, yet you don't seem to know me.
I've had similar situations arise with other parents at school.
We have a small district.
Each class has 60-85 kids in it.
We've been in the district since our children were of age to attend school.
And, through our childhood cancer advocacy, we've been on local television and in local newspapers since 2011.
We aren't hermits.
Yet, you don't seem to see me.
I can look at you and know...that's Cleo's mom or that's Gavin's dad.
Just because I have seen you at registration.
Or a school assembly.
I see things.
My eyes are constantly scanning a room.
Taking mental notes.
Not quite as detailed as Sherlock Holmes, but I would be a good eyewitness if tragedy struck.
I see details.
I don't often miss a beat.
I can pick out the gay guy in a room of men.
I can find the couple who are having marital issues.
But since I'm always "on" I see my own disappointment.
I see people not seeing me.
And then I'm put into situations like Santa Shop.
Where my neighbor doesn't seem to know me.
I often think about this particular circumstance.
Did she really know me and just didn't want to acknowledge the fact because she didn't like me?
But, how could she not like me when she didn't seem to know me?
There was another mom in the Santa Shop that day who has a son in my daughter's class.
We've known one another since the children were three years old.
I'll never forget her because she slammed the school's front door on me one day as I was running up to it.
It was a very cold day.
My daughter was with me and we were heading into the building for afternoon preschool.
You must be buzzed into the school.
She saw us running for the stairs.
She, with her toddler son's hand firmly grasped in her own.
She opened the door (after being buzzed in) and just as we got to the first step, she did it.
She closed the door on us.
Pulled it shut tight.
I just stood there.
Looking into the building through the small window at my eye level.
She wouldn't turn around.
Wouldn't open the door for us.
So I had to push the button to get buzzed in.
When I finally entered so barely looked at me.
She mumbled something about "everyone needs to be buzzed in...I wasn't sure if you were coming in the door"
All things that made no sense and I have never forgotten it.
I spoke not one word to her that afternoon.
But, she too, was working Santa Shop with me.
Someone else who didn't seem to know me.
But, I did what other adults should do with one another when placed into a group volunteer setting.
I said "hello, how is Michael enjoying third grade?"
She seemed to know me on this day.
And mumbled a few pleasantries in my direction.
I am cordial even when I shouldn't be.
I got right into my work.
Passing out gifts that the children were buying their loved ones.
It was the last Santa Shop I've volunteered at.
The neighbor's children are in my care during recess now.
And my children ride the bus home from school with them.
I've introduced myself to them as they ask me for a basketball on the playground.
And my children have sat next to them on the bus.
They don't seem to know us either.
My own children have said just this to me.
"Mom, they won't talk to us on the bus...it's as if they don't know us."
Sigh...here we go again...