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by Abigail Van Buren

Good Hedge May Make Better Neighbor of Woman Next Door

DEAR ABBY: I hope you can help resolve an ever-widening dispute between my husband and me. We live in a small town with our young children.

Our next-door neighbor is a troubled woman. I call her the Wicked Witch of the West. She's openly hostile, a mad-at-the-world type. Extending an olive branch to her is not possible, as testified to by her many former friends and family members who avoid her.

When the "witch" is out in her yard, she ignores the innocent greetings of our young children, which hurts their feelings. Yet she refers often and loudly to her dogs as her "children" and speaks to them as one would a child. I worry what a person so filled with anger may be capable of. I don't feel safe having my children grow up next to her.

Our neighbor to the east of us is a wonderful person who showers our children with attention and affection. I want to move, but my husband says we have to focus on the positive -- the delightful neighbor whom our children adore. What do you think we should do? -- CONCERNED MOTHER IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA

DEAR CONCERNED MOTHER: I vote with your husband. If you move, there is no guarantee that your new neighbors will relate well to children.

A more realistic way to handle this would be to explain to your children that the neighbor to the west is troubled and unhappy, and that they should leave her alone. It shouldn't be hard to impress on them, because children usually respond to people who show an interest and pleasure at being around them. If possible, plant a nice, thick hedge along the west side of your yard so they don't have to see her or be rebuffed by her.