My mother could never get along well with the neighbors. But there was one in particular who she really, really loved to hate. She nicknamed her Mare Winningham because she was the actress’s doppelgänger.
In the beginning, right after they moved in, everything was copacetic. I would go over to Mare’s house to play with her son who was four years my junior. I was in fifth grade and he was in second or third grade. We would ride bikes together, play fort, and a couple of times, Mare invited me to join them for lunch. One day, my mother told me that she had been contacted by my school counselor to inform her that a neighbor reported that there was concern for my well-being because I was playing with much younger children. It seemed that Mare, who had a long history of working with children, was able to sniff out that something troublesome was going on that was worthy of investigation.
The report infuriated my mother.
At some point, Mare also attempted to speak with my mother directly about her concerns. She was standing on a ladder to fix the light above our garage when Mare appeared underneath her.
“You have five seconds to get the fuck off my property before I come down off this ladder and beat the shit out of you, you fucking Mare Winningham”, my mother snarled. Mare quickly obliged.
My mother had reached her breaking point and declared war against Mare. She was the general and I was enlisted as her soldier.
The first of the battles began when I was in sixth grade when my mother requested that me and my friend Mindy pull some pranks on Mare. She asked Mindy if one of her derelict, hoodlum friends from West Philly would also be willing to be paid to break Mare’s windows, but he turned down the offer.
In the middle of the night, we found a few bikes on a neighbor’s property and put them on Mare’s porch. Then, we took a For Sale sign off of another neighbor’s property and poked it into Mare’s front lawn. And for our final act, Mindy yanked all of the flowers out of Mare’s garden and threw them on the ground.
Mindy slept over that night, and the following morning, we were startled awake by my mother who barreled into my bedroom.
“What the fuck did you do?! What the fuck did you do?! Tell me right now! The cops are at her house!” At first, we thought she was furious, but then we realized that she was laughing hysterically.
“Well, we stole a few bikes and put them on her porch, then we put a For Sale sign on her lawn, and then Mindy pulled out all of the flowers in her garden.”
I went to the window to peek out at the cop cars and my mother pulled me back.
“Don’t let them see you!”
Without any solid proof of who was behind the mischief, we got off scot-free.
It was quiet on Mare’s side afterwards – not a peep from her and no retaliation. But my mother wasn’t satisfied. The general came up with a new battleplan – one that was much more barbarous.
One morning while I was playing around online, my mother directed me to post the following advertisement on Craigslist on behalf of Mare:
“Please join me in my home at 1 o’clock this afternoon for a special show. My pet parakeet will peck at my clitoris exciting a great state of arousal in me, and for an encore, he will fly up my vagina and I will come when he flaps his wings.”
When I read the finished post back to her for her review, my mother started laughing hysterically. With tears rolling down her face, she exclaimed, “I’m going to pee myself!” I had the general’s seal of approval to publish the post. We sat and waited.
One by one, the cars began to pull up. Once again, I tried to peek out, but my mother insisted that I not get too close to the window.
When one of the last drivers pulled up, Mare stood on the stoop outside of her kitchen door and shouted,
“There’s no show!”
A man with a thick Indian accent shouted back, “I’m calling the Audubon Society on you!”
The following morning, my mother received a phone call from a detective who informed her that they had to hire an attorney in order to get the post taken down.