When Little Veronica Met the New Neighbors (From The Chronicles of Veronica)

The day I took the kids over to meet the new neighbors was the day I learned never to assume anything when it comes to Veronica.

We had been living in our first house for a few months when we heard that a family with a four-year-old son named Sam was moving in across the street. Four-year-old Veronica was ecstatic. 

When she wasn’t in preschool three mornings a week, she and the cat could be found perched on the back of the sofa in the living room staring through the big picture window waiting for the moving van to arrive. 

I had told Veronica that we needed to give Sam’s family a few days to get settled before going over to welcome them to the neighborhood.

Just before they moved in Sam’s father passed away. Because she has always had an innocent, inquisitive nature, Richard and I talked about whether or not to tell Veronica about Sam’s dad.

We decided it wasn’t necessary. Since I’d planned to bring the kids over in the afternoon while Richard was working, we figured she’d think Sam’s father was at work, too. 

Boy, were we wrong…and oh, so stupid.

I held Veronica’s hand on one side while balancing 8-month-old Lucas and a tray of brownies on the other as we walked across the street.

I rang the bell and a woman with a big smile on her face came to the door. She invited us in and told us her name was Carol. I explained who we were and that Veronica was very excited to meet Sam.

Carol said that Sam was playing in his room, so we all went upstairs to meet him. I sat Lucas on the floor near Sam, and Veronica plopped down next to him. Sam told them all about his room and let them play with his toys. 

I took that opportunity to whisper my condolences to Carol who smiled sweetly at me and thanked me for coming over. She was especially happy that I’d brought my kids to play with Sam. 

I had a feeling that Carol and I would become good friends.

And that’s the moment Veronica looked up at Carol and asked, “Where’s Sam’s Dad?”

Maybe Carol and I weren’t going to become good friends after all.

Oh, the dread. Oh, the panic. Oh, the desire to be able to disappear or go back in time. I looked at Carol and mouthed the words, “I’m so sorry!” Carol mouthed back, “It’s ok,” and then turned to Veronica and said, “Sam’s father died.”

“Oh,” Veronica said. “Sorry.”

I was proud of Veronica for handling the situation so well. “Ok, good,” I thought to myself, “crisis averted.”

Not so much.

Veronica looked up at Carol again and asked, “Well, how did he die?”

“This is not happening,” I said to myself. Oh, but it was.

“He had a heart attack,” Carol said very matter of factly. Carol looked at me, smiled, and nodded her head as if to let me know she was okay with Veronica’s questions. She was obviously a very cool, calm, laid-back person.

Carol seemed to recognize that Veronica was just gathering information. She was trying to make sense of the world, which has always been a wonderful attribute. 

But, under the circumstances, I found it hard to stay calm because one never knew what might come out of little Veronica’s mouth. Once she got going she was like a 3-foot tall attorney with pigtails.

Veronica looked up at Carol again. 

Oh. Shit.

“Did the heart attack hurt?”


Our visit had officially gone down the crapper.

Even though Carol would have probably been able to comfortably handle Veronica’s question – – and all of its follow-ups – – and Sam seemed more interested in his toys than anything Veronica had asked, I couldn’t take it anymore. I decided that the kids and I should leave after having done enough damage for the rest of our lives or, at least, until one family or the other moved.

I told Veronica it was time for Lucas’s nap as I picked him up and gently took her hand. I thanked Carol for having us over and Sam for sharing his toys. Veronica said goodbye to Sam who got up and walked down the stairs with Carol and me.

“Okay,” I thought to myself when we reached the front door, “that could have gone much worse.”

And then it did.

My fingers were within an inch of the handle of the screen door. We were so close to making our escape. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Veronica turn around to look at Carol. I reached a little further and grasped the door handle, but I was too late. Before I could push the door open Veronica’s mouth was open.

As I stood there holding Lucas, Veronica said to Carol, “I bet Sam’s father didn’t take very good care of himself if he had a heart attack! Was he fat? Did he smoke? I bet he ate crap all the time and never exercised!”

I think I lost consciousness there for a second, but I was still upright and hadn’t dropped Lucas.

How did Veronica even know about this stuff? It wasn’t as if we sat around the dinner table with our young children discussing war and coronary artery disease.

I gripped Veronica’s hand a little tighter and apologized to Carol who had walked outside with us, probably making sure we were actually leaving. Somehow, she was still smiling. 

“Stay calm,” I told myself as we began walking, very quickly, across their lawn. “We’re almost home,” I told myself. “You can do this.”

Little did I know that little Veronica wasn’t finished.

“Well, ya know, Sam needs a father,” she said over her shoulder to Carol as she trotted to keep up with me. “I think all kids should have fathers. You should get married to someone else. Are you dating anyone? Maybe my parents know someone you could marry…”

I began sprinting to the best of my ability while holding a baby in one arm and dragging a toddler with the other. I shouted apologies to Carol over my shoulder as I looked both ways and then crossed the street.

Thankfully we made it home before Veronica could ask any more questions or offer up any more marriage advice.

I put Lucas down for a nap and placed Veronica in front of the TV so I could lie down for a few minutes before making dinner. 


A few years later Carol met a wonderful man and invited all four of us to their wedding which took place in her backyard. He adopted Sam and in time they had a baby girl. At the wedding Veronica had a very pleased look on her face. Everything had gone according to her plan.

Fro-Back Friday! When Dad got Stuck in our Driveway

Norman with pennies on his head
My father could make almost anything stick to his forehead. It was one of his many talents.

The kids and I were in our usual positions; kneeling on the blue pleather-covered, retro sofa in the living room with our behinds facing the middle of the room and our noses pressed against the bay window, waiting for my parents to arrive.

Lucas and Veronica were always excited when they knew Grandma and Papa were coming over. My parents would often come to the house to visit before we’d all go out for dinner.

As soon as my father’s Lincoln Town Car pulled into the driveway, both kids bounced up and down on the sofa, causing me to bounce, albeit involuntarily. Physics. Can’t live with it; can’t live without it.1978_Lincoln_Town_Car





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Our driveway was wide enough for one car only, and as steep as a double-black diamond ski-run. At the bottom of the slope sat a one-car garage.

My Dad let my Mom out of the car and then decided to pull further up, which was, in reality, down  (oh, so down) the driveway. The only plausible reason for this was that my sister, brother-in-law, and their son, Joey, were coming over, too, and he wanted to leave room for them to pull up behind him.

It was so cold that year the Canadian geese, that usually hung out across the street at the golf course for the winter, completely bypassed Illinois and headed straight to Arkansas. Even though he’d placed the car in “Park,” Dad’s rear-wheel-drive car continued to slide down the icy driveway, inching itself closer and closer to the closed garage door.

Richard, my mom, the kids, and I watched through the front window of the house as my Dad’s car disappeared between the embankments on either side of the bottom of the driveway. We could see the back end of his car, but no Norman.

Richard ran outside and watched as Norman’s car stopped just short of the garage door. Richard came inside to tell us the good news. But the good news was short-lived.

Because of the embankments, my Dad couldn’t open his door more than an inch. If he had tried to slide over to the passenger’s side, he wouldn’t have had any better luck there. Even if he could physically climb over the back seat, those doors wouldn’t have been able to be opened either.

As soon as we realized what was happening, little four-year-old Veronica asked, “Will we ever see Papa again?”

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“Good question,” I thought to myself. How is he going to get out of the car? But before we could figure that out, he began trying to back up, only to spin his wheels which had the reverse effect, sliding him closer to the garage door.

I ran downstairs and opened the garage door to see if he would be able to slide in, get a smidge of traction, and then back out. But Richard’s car was parked in the garage, leaving Dad shipwrecked.

Time for some quick thinking. Richard and I sprang into action to rescue Papa from the Town Car. We placed floor mats behind Dad’s back wheels, as we tried not to slalom down the driveway ourselves. He put the car back into reverse but his wheels only spun and spun. They spun so much, in fact, that the smell of burning rubber triggered the smoke detector in the garage.

Ok. It was time for some more quick thinking. Richard and I tried to push the car back up the hill as Dad’s wheels spun in reverse. That may have been quick thinking, but it was also stupid thinking. There was no  way the two of us could have pushed that Titanic of a car back up and over the death-drop steepness of our driveway.

Finally, The Voice of Reason, also known as my Mother, said we should call a tow truck, which we did. However, it was going to be about two hours before the tow truck could get to our house due to the inordinate volume of calls the company had received about cars stuck on steep, double-black diamond ski-run-worthy driveways. Dad would just have to sit and wait in his car while we waited inside the house for the tow truck to arrive.


I called Dad on his cell phone to see if he was thirsty and wanted a Diet Coke, or need an old coffee can in which to pee. He she was fine and was even laughing about the situation.

Back in the house, we all just stood there waiting for the tow truck. If Dad was stuck in the driveway, we were going to be stuck watching him be stuck in the driveway because that’s what our family does. It made no sense, and makes even less sense when I think about it now, but we all stood there glued to the floor, as if we were trapped, too.

Finally, the tow truck arrived. A giant flatbed tow truck. In my driveway.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-marlin-fish-cartoon-image24097008I had no idea what the guy was going to do or how he planned to get my Dad’s car out of the driveway, but he did. He somehow got these big metal things under the wheels of my Dad’s car and magically began to lift the car up — with my dad in it — using metal chains, and a hook that looked like it could support a prize-winning Marlin.


As we all stood there watching, Dad’s car was eventually dragged onto the flatbed. The tow truck driver returned to the cab of his truck and pushed a button that elevated the flatbed, the car, and my Dad as high as the 50-year-old Arborvitae trees that flanked either side of the embankments. As the driver pulled his truck out of the driveway, there was Norman sitting in his car waving at us as if he were in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I never would have believed it, but it worked. The driver lowered the flatbed, and then unhitched the Titanic so my Dad could drive off of it. He moored the car on the street, and got out to tip the tow truck driver as we all watched and cheered. He was a little stiff from sitting in his car motionless for two hours and he had to pee, but other than that he was fine.

We snapped out of our stupors of disbelief and did what we had planned all along. We went out to dinner. Nothing, not even a perilous mountain of ice, could keep this family from going out for dinner, because that’s what Chases have always done and always will.


Dedicated in loving memory of Norman. M. Chase

June 17, 1931-June 6, 2014