National Security                   
By Helene Fisher

Excerpt From: Between Rockland and A Hard Place:
An East Village Mom Moves to the Suburbs Post 9/11

Dan and I were making dinner when the doorbell rang. The kids were in the living room liberating their belongings from moving boxes. My five-year-old’s fervor was somewhat alarming but we knew it was deeply important to him to reclaim his stuff even if that meant creating a monumental mess that included used packing tape and Styrofoam peanuts. I had promised Burke that we would go through his artwork — so carefully stowed by his preschool teacher in a handmade portfolio — and decorate his new bedroom walls. My little one, nearly three, was happily unpacking and repacking the same box of Barbies over and over.

When I opened the front door, my eyes widened as a singsong voice, a kind of suburban castrati, rang out, “We’re the Weavers! Welcome to the neighborhood!”

Mr. Weaver had cartoonishly animated eyes and eyebrows that with his eyeglasses, made him a dead ringer for Groucho Marx. He was carrying a redheaded baby festooned in pink. His orange-headed wife stood smiling awkwardly. She was holding her young son’s hand. The Weaver boy’s features were a static version of his father’s full-motion face.

“Mom, Mom, look at this. Remember this?” Burke was holding a picture he had made with sand in last year’s art class.

“Oh, look at that!” I said.

“Who is this?” asked Mr. Weaver. He was so happy I thought he’d steam his eyeglasses.

“This is Burke.”

“Burke?” rolling the name over in his mouth. “How unusual. That must be a family name,” he concluded. I didn’t correct him. “Well, hi, Burke!”

Burke said nothing and ran back to the living room.

I smiled apologetically at my neighbors. Mr. Weaver introduced his family. “This is Wendy and this is Ronnie and I am Lewis and this is my wife Joanie.”

“Joan,” she corrected him.

My husband Dan joined me at the door. Dan is by nature both neighborly and courteous; he invited the Weavers in. My first and only thought is that we were well on our way to dinner/bath/kids-in-bed/kids-asleep/rented-movie. I was already feeling resentful.

With the baby in his arms, Lewis Weaver was instantly assaulting Dan with Weaver facts, pushing past him in the entrance hall and to the living room upstairs. Joan and son followed. Our children greeted little Ronnie with his own moving box. “We’re freeing the toys. Do you want to free the toys with us?” my eldest asked. Ronnie happily jumped in to help.

“Are you liking it here so far?” Joan asked. But before I could answer, she said, “Well, of course you only just got here. But you will like it.”

“Thank you,” I said, trying to remember what part of the dinner process we’d been in. “I think the oven is on,” I said. She followed me into the kitchen.

“How old are the children?” Joan asked. She did not look at me when she spoke.

“Five and almost three,” I said. “And yours?”

“Four and seven months.” She was looking at my left ear. I flicked my eyes towards my ear hoping to wrangle her gaze and wrestle it back to my own. But her eyes locked on to an unknown point near the side of my head. I wondered if she had a disability of some sort. The Weavers peculiar eyes were probably in part what attracted them to each other and brought them together in the wacky cosmic way that couples often connect — in the Weaver’s case, the contract specifying no eye contact allowed. I had the strong impulse to bring the Weavers to a doll hospital for repair.