From the start it was a bad meeting.
I was late, for one, driving right past the meeting place thanks to faulty directions that sent me out on winding roads to the middle of nowhere. So when I slipped into my seat the superintendent was giving his year-end report and I was lost. I’d missed the agendas and the sign-in sheet, too, so I had no way of catching up.
I tried to sneak glances over the shoulder of the women in front of me, but she was taking notes and mostly kept the paper where I couldn’t see it.
I’d never covered this meeting before so I didn’t know anyone’s names, but I could only read half the name plates in front of them. I attributed quotes to people like “lady who isn’t the one whose name starts with S.” I figured I could find the names later (which I did).
I knew that this particular district had controversies over closing schools before (what school district doesn’t, now?), but that the school in question was closed and sold and the dust settled and the meetings quieter now.
But five minutes after the report ended and two board members were quibbling over times posted on the door for administrative hours I realized that the anger, the bitterness, is still there. One would raise an issue (any issue, really, with administration), and the other chimed in, and after arguments that went on too long the board chairman would call the question, and they’d be the only two voting against whatever had been proposed.
The others were quiet, mostly, waiting for them to finish, like this was something that is part of life there.
It shouldn’t have been that long of a meeting but the man from the radio told me it was short, before continuing on a long story about car wrecks and deer. I’d passed a doe and her fawn bounding across four lanes of rural highway on the way out and I wasn’t surprised.
An administrator was coming behind us and I was in his way as he neared his car, so I hurried my steps and turned to apologize.
“Aren’t you my neighbor?” he asked. “Weren’t you at my garage sale last weekend?”
And so it goes. I have seen but not actually met these neighbors countless times over the past few years. They have several boys and now a girl, and the mother walked often in the evenings with the infant strapped to her chest. Sometimes they all walk past our house, stroller and a straggling line of boys in tow. I chased the dog through their yard once; we commiserated once on a neighbor’s children who always played in the road, who we were so afraid we would watch die on the black asphalt.
On Saturday I bought a dress for the baby from their garage sale; their girl is just months older than mine.
But I have never known their names.
“Are you the one with all the boys?” I asked him that night and yes, he said, he was.
And so at a meeting I never cover miles from our quiet neighborhood, I finally met another neighbor, whose children I will hear hitting home runs down the block in their own front yard while I weed in mine.
Strange how it works that way.