Sunday, August 25, 2013

Meet the neighbors before raccoons attack

I write a weekly column called “Neighborberry.”

I post these essays on my blog a few weeks after each one is released. The publishers get first dibs. :)

If you would like to see "Neighborberry" in your local paper/website, please tell the editor to email me at Thanks so much! 

Meet the neighbors before raccoons attack (released July 26, 2013)
By Kris Kolk

Would your neighbor come to your aid in an emergency? Helping one another sounds good in theory, but one recent occasion prompted me to reconsider this basic directive.

When I am unable to sleep, I obsess over thoughts which rarely cross my mind during the day. From wondering if I remembered to coil the hose to speculating whether week-old chicken casserole has spoiled, distress comes easily at two o’clock in the morning.

One sleepless night when the rest of the family was away, I pondered what would happen if raccoons attacked me in my bed. I practically convinced myself that raccoons had already settled downstairs with some Perry Mason reruns and dicey chicken casserole.

I decided this would be a good opportunity to redirect my heebie-jeebies into a preparedness exercise. This felt productive. It also took the sting out of the fact I was hiding under the covers from imaginary animals.

Raccoons know instinctively that the television should not be used as a babysitter, so I figured they would eventually come looking for me. I would feel persistent tugs on my blanket until finally my eyes would open to find a nursery of adorable bandits piled in my bed.

“I’m bored,” one would say. “My tummy hurts, and there’s nothing to eat in this house,” another would contribute. The thought of this scene gave me goose bumps, but I wasn’t only worried about the raccoons. Since survival would depend on my neighbor’s willingness to get involved, I was more concerned with his impression of me.

You see, if something isn’t fit to wear in public, I wear it to bed. My neon green stirrup pants, circa 1983, often pair with a ratty t-shirt from my husband’s pre-marital days. The pants offer a roomy fit since the elastic in the waistband went brittle. Across the chest of the t-shirt is printed an outdated message of “available.”

For crimped hair, I sleep with ten miniature braids around my head. When I really get going on the beauty routine, I apply lotion and put tube socks on my hands to contain the moisture overnight.

I hoped my neighbor appreciated frugality in nightwear and wouldn’t get nauseated by the dark side of vanity. My life could one day depend on his ability to trust me despite appearances. I needed to create a plan, and I was too nervous to sleep, anyway.

Have you ever seen raccoons in the wild? They waddle. I probably do, too, so my escape strategy hinged on out-toddling the fastest of the gang through my garage door to the yard. I imagined the sequence of events would unfold as follows:

After hearing a woman yell “The raccoons are bored with Perry Mason!” my neighbor would look out his kitchen window. From sleepy eyes, he would spy the neighbor lady trotting towards his house, tripping over a garden hose then getting up again.

My pants would surrender to the added weight of caked mud while tube sock mittens would sabotage every attempt to pull my pants up. I would arrive at my neighbor’s glass patio doors where he would be standing on the other side. His lips would mouth “available” while reading my nightshirt. Through sweat, mud, and ten tiny braids, my eyes would plead into his. He would naturally question my intentions.

My neighbor would assess the situation then his mythology training would kick in. To avoid being turned to stone, he would attempt to look away from who appeared to be Medusa.

At this point, there is a fork in my fantasy road. Perhaps my neighbor would provide refuge in such a situation or maybe the whole thing would just confirm his suspicions that the neighbor lady really is nuts. I fell asleep before visualizing the outcome.

The next morning, I found our television blaring and the refrigerator door open. I noticed a muddy trail from my yard leading to a soccer-ball-sized rock resting against my neighbor’s back door. 

Many tips can be gleaned from that restless night, such as: wear decent nightclothes, discard old chicken casserole, and put the hose away after each use. More importantly, though, get to know the neighbors so they are willing to help when bizarre stuff happens.

You never know when raccoons will come for YOU.

Kris Kolk has been a writer and neighborliness promoter for more than a decade. You can also visit her at Email her at

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