Neighbor Girl; Neighbor Bird; Mammography Center; The Wrong Mood for Antiques

This morning I was thinking, “Oh little neighbor girl! I wonder if you could sing ‘Let It Go’ INDOORS for awhile!”—and then I realized that might be the very reason she ended up outside. Okay, neighbor parent, I see your point of view and can take one for the team.

Also outside my window is a bird that is making me nervous. It stands on a branch with a small worm or bug in its beak, chirping a weird bark-like single chirp, over and over, turning back and forth as it seems to listen for a reply. I wonder if her nest was pillaged by a cat, and she is still trying to find/feed her babies. I got quite worked up and sad about this, and then I remembered a funny section of one of Augusten Burroughs’s books that addresses this sort of thing. He has us imagine that we drive past the scene of a car crash, and we’re haunted by the sight of a doll in the wreckage, and the sad fate of the little girl we assume must have been in no condition to bring the doll with her. Then he has us imagine an alternate scene in which no one has been hurt in the crash and the doll was an antique-store find and so on. He points out that since we’d never have known the real story, there we’d be in a therapist’s office, probably being instructed by the therapist to write a letter to the poor little girl. I imagined myself in the therapist’s office, writing a letter to the poor mother bird who lost her young, when it’s quite possible the bird is just loud and dim and maybe HAS no babies and is kind of a sloppy eater.


I am getting frustrated because the mammography center keeps sending me scolding letters about how it’s time for a mammogram, but then when I call them to make an appointment, I get an answering machine and then they don’t return my call. Then I get another letter in the mail. Pretty soon I am going to write back, since that is evidently their preferred method of communication. “Dear Mammography Center, I am writing to make an appointment. Do you have anything on Thursday morning? Write back soon! Love, Swistle”


Yesterday seemed like the perfect day to go to an antique store and look through boxes of postcards. But I’d misjudged it: instead of having a pleasant quiet-hobby feeling, I accidentally hit that mood of “This used to be someone’s treasured collection, and now here it is being pawed over (and rejected) by strangers.” Everything I looked at seemed pointless to acquire: Why, when soon we will all be dead and our possessions will only burden our children? Or perhaps I should buy EVERYTHING IN THE WHOLE STORE AND GIVE THESE POOR UNLOVED THINGS A HOME.

14 thoughts on “Neighbor Girl; Neighbor Bird; Mammography Center; The Wrong Mood for Antiques

  1. Melinda

    These kinds of posts make me love you a little bit more. Thank you for making me grin today.

  2. Sarah

    As a parent who has in fact sent my son outside for some good Frozen singing- I want to say thank you for taking it for the team. I am hoping at some point to tolerate some other child’s annoying neighborhood quirks in return someday.

  3. Erica

    I can definitely see my brain going that direction in an antique store. I had a long stretch of 1) Doing something social-ish like a play date or book club; 2) Feeling on edge the entire time; 3) Congratulating myself for dressing/talking/acting like normal people; 4) Thinking that life is just a series of attempts to stay precariously perched above the abyss of total despair; 5) Remembering why I used to drink so much. Anyway, I’ve recently upgraded from existential crisis to mild ennui, so I could probably take on antiques now.

  4. Tommie

    Yes to the fact that the neighborhood girl was probably sent outside to sing. My seven year old sings Frozen songs, records herself on her tablet and then forces me to listen to the recording over and over again, even though I was RIGHT THERE when the performance was live. I’d send her outside but she was recently on antibiotics for pneumonia and has to say out of the sun for another week or so.

    And yes, I laughed at the sample of your letter to the mammography center. Ha! Hahahah. Perfection.

  5. Nicole Boyhouse

    Love this whole post. I *still* don’t know Let It Go, thank heavens for boys and their disgust for any kind of perceived “girl movie”.

    I think that’s called “projecting” and I do it all the time. “Oh, Barkley seems sad. Come here Barkley.” when really, the dog is just tired.

    I have that feeling all the time, about estate sales and antiques. The mixed feeling of “buy it all” and “what is the point.”

  6. Elizabeth

    Oh! The old photographs/tintypes make me sad in antique stores. Do these people have no living descendants at all, or do they just have uncaring, unsentimental wretches left as family?

  7. Alexa

    This is why I have such a complicated relationship with antique stores. I never know how they are going to strike me–sometimes I come away all misty and feeling a sort of fond pride for humans in general, and other times THE VERY SAME ITEMS leave me feeling hopeless and anxious. Why they cannot just be a fun place to shop without inspiring existential FEELINGS is beyond me.

  8. Lawyerish

    This morning on the subway, I was having those Feelings where you get all tender toward your fellow human beings for how poignant it is that we all get carefully dressed and try to make ourselves look nice, and we clutch our cups of coffee or listen to our music or eat our little treats, and we’re all just so FRAGILE and VULNERABLE, and lots of people did those very same things and now they’re dead. They possibly even went through those motions and routines the very DAY they died, and had no idea what was coming.

    Then I sat at my desk and ate breakfast and had a Diet Dr Pepper and felt almost giddy, so it’s just that kind of day.

  9. allison

    A neighbourhood restaurant/bar has 50-cent wings on Tuesdays, so we go with three couple friends or whoever among us can make it every so often. Last night we were out on the patio, having beer and wings, and the waitress knew what we all drank, and we were all convulsed over some penis-Reddit-thread-induced hilarity, and suddenly I was seized with the impulse to crush all my beautiful, beautiful friends to my bosom and tell them how much I loved them all in case it was the last time we were all together. I was only about a quarter of a beer in, so this probably means I’m about to get my period.

    I would be fire-bombing the mammogram place. Seriously.

  10. Gigi

    The antique thing about the photos made me sad. Because I’m fairly certain that’s where my mother’s many, many albums ended up. Or worse – in the trash. That’s what happens when you move far away and decide to let your stupid brother “handle” things. (It’s a long story)

    As for the mammogram place…do they have a website? If not, find another mammogram place that is more responsive. Then leave the old mammogram place a voicemail telling them why you defected to another doctor. That is reprehensible customer service. If you lived here, I could line you up with a FABULOUS mammogram place.

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