Even though our Kyrene Corridor neighborhoods don’t represent one big city (the population of Corona del Sol High School is larger than the whole fictional town of Mayberry), I sometimes imagine living in a place where the neighbors are watching out for you… where you can leave your door unlocked and not worry because the kids know to come home when the street lights go on.
While that may be a memory of times gone by, it seems that certain characteristics of a small town can still be found right here in our own modern-day metropolis.
Last week-while I was settling the two middle kids in for the evening, putting the little one to bed, readying movies for a pre-teen sleepover, getting the oldest prepared for an overnight visit to her friend’s house and, finally, heading off for bed myself-I had one of those nights that every parent inevitably confronts.
I fell asleep well before midnight, reassured that three members of the family were tucked snugly into their beds. Nor was I worried about the fourth, the one spending the night with her girlfriend. She always has been a good driver and a trustworthy kid, meaning that I seldom have had to worry about her.
Even so, when the persistent barking of my tiny watchdog woke me, followed by the sounds of a chiming doorbell, visions of trouble popped unavoidably into my head.
Looking at the clock, I saw that it read midnight, and quickly realized that nothing good can come from being awakened at that hour. I threw on a robe and hurried downstairs to the front door, only to peek through the window to see a uniformed police officer waiting for someone to answer.
This, of course, is a nightmare that gains potency once the kids start to drive. An officer on your front porch can’t be a sign of good news, and I stood there for a few seconds wondering whether I wanted to open the door or not.
But when the bell rang again, I knew avoidance wasn’t going to be an option.
Here’s where all my fears turned out to be nothing more than the product of an all-too-vivid imagination. There’s nothing that makes you happier in such a situation, of course, than to realize your worst-case suspicions were unfounded.
In fact, when the officer explained matter-of-factly that things hadn’t looked right to her when she cruised by (the garage door was open and my car was parked on the street), I reacted by lunging toward her with both arms outstretched. Although I’m sure she was startled, she didn’t seem the least bit unnerved, and walked imperturbably toward the garage to be sure its contents were still intact.
Confirming that everything was in its place, she walked back to her car and drove off into the night.
As I climbed the stairs back to bed after putting the car away and closing the garage door, my whole body began to shake. Fortunately, I regained my composure in seconds, and immediately sent my daughter a text message to let her know I love her. She responded quickly, no doubt having a good laugh at what I’m sure she felt was my overreaction.
Maybe if it ever happens again, I’ll not be so quick to assume the worst.
So no, this isn’t Mayberry, but I can tell you that I now appreciate all the more the small-town philosophy that allows a Chandler police officer patrolling at night to have time to be concerned about my family’s welfare. Maybe that hometown ambience isn’t just a dream, after all.