Monday, June 3, 2013

The Mrs. Klein Syndrome

When DH and I came to look at a house which we were thinking of buying, a neighbor who shared potentially 'our' driveway came over and greeted us. She was chatty, friendly, kind - a perfect shared-driveway neighbor. She introduced herself as Sarah Klein.

We ended up buying the house and Mrs. Klein brought us quite an expensive welcoming gift ( some china from an overpriced local joint, but nonetheless) and reiterated her welcome. Soon after we moved in, the Kleins built a tall fence for their back yard. I told DH it was to keep our kids out. He said, it was a common thing to built and had nothing to do with our move.

The honey moon lasted for quite a few months. After I had a baby (5 months or so after we moved to the block), Mrs. Klein made us delicious chicken for Friday night. Her husband came to our baby's birthday party.

They were the perfect neighbors, until DH tried to park in the driveway. Mrs. Klein commented that she needs access at all times, so we have to always park inside and they'll park closer to the street. ( they even gave us their car keys, so we can pull their cars our and in whenever we needed to use the driveway).

Then there were the Klein kids, who had a hard time saying hi. Not Mr and Mrs Klein who'd always greet us with a " hello" and " how are you". Mrs. Klein would even be the first one to greet my mom at the grocery store. Our daughters were in the same class in school but play dates were scarce.

The Kleins never invited us for a shabbat meal (and albeit they had weekly psalms reading for the ladies in their house, one of my friends invited me for the readings, not Mrs. Klein) and DH said they have a big family so it's hard to have company on shabbat.

With many gentle signs ( including a 'privacy fence' the Kleins built after we built a deck), in time, even DH realized that the Kleins weren't really happy that we moved in next door. They were delighted that Mr Abdullah moved out (our house's previous owner).

The syndrome fully manifested itself after DH parked his car on our side of the driveway one alternate-side-parking morning. As Mrs. Klein enjoyed parking her car in the middle of the driveway, she was quite tiffed that she had to squeeze into her share of Brooklyn-shared-driveway. She spoke to DH regarding his poor parking skills to which he replied that he parked on his side of the drive way. Mrs. Klein tried to throw her weight around, inluding "do you want to start with me?" bit, which was very out of character for the 'baalat chesed" (charitable woman) reputation she had.

After this, I was convinced that Mrs. Klein baked chala with a bracha, said a book of psalms every day, and had psalm readings in her house because she was superstitious, not righteous. Our lukewarm relationship became cold. But through all this, Mr. Klein would always (and Mrs. Klein frequently) greet us with a harty hello.

I haven't seen Mrs. Klein in over a year. I can't say I miss her. But I've thus far had a privilege of living in the same building with 2 neighbors who, as a family, exhibit the Klein syndrome. The husbands always greet my family with a hearty hello, wives snob me (I'd say 'us' but I guess not greeting my husband can be part of one's religious observance) and seem deaf and mute. Their kids don't play with my kids. The wives end up being popular charitable women in the community (but their charity doesn't extend my family).

I think I have to thank my old neighbor for the great memories. So, as I greeted a local Mrs. Klein this morning and received 1/4 of a smile in return, I remembered the original Mrs. Klein and decided to dedicate a post to her.

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