A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood


When I was little and living in a small town, our neighbors to the left, just before the train tracks, were a family with two kids in high school. I was pretty young when we lived in this house so my memories are few. These are the few things I remember about them:
They kept rabbits. I liked this.
The father always seemed cranky and unfriendly. I did not like this.
The mother wore a back brace that looked to me like a giant set of earmuffs. This confused me.
They had one of those knit toilet paper cozies made to look like a woman with a poofy skirt. I don’t even know where to begin with that one. I probably had to ask my mom what it was.

On the other side of us was an older woman who lived alone. We were invited over once or twice and I remember that the inside of her house looked just like our house except that it was decorated with old lady things. We didn’t have old lady things in our house. We weren’t supposed to play in her yard, out of respect, I suppose, but we did anyway. It was on the way to a short cut to the neighborhood behind us. (This short cut was used by a never-ending stream of Incredible Hulks in a recurring nightmare I had as a child, but that’s a whole other story.)

Later on in life, where Neil and I lived most recently, our neighbors were even more diverse. Lots of artists and musicians, and one man who made his living by walking on stilts. One house in particular stands out from the rest. An apartment building that was full of addicts of one kind or another, more often than not, attracting the attention of our local police department. There’s nothing like lying awake at night listening to the sound of a swat team descending on the house next door. Especially when you’re home alone. And really really hoping no one sees you watching from your bathroom window.

And now that we’re in the burbs things have mellowed a bit. Our neighbors are a bit older. Less crack addict and more lawn addict. Less stilt walking and more dog walking. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a knit toilet paper cozy on this street somewhere.

And even though some of them drive me crazy (with the barking, barking, barking dogs that wake, wake, wake the baby), I have never been so touched as when we came home with Dash and there was a meal on our front porch from one neighbor. Others showed up with baby clothes and apologized for not coming sooner. Meanwhile we’d only just gotten home from the hospital and had just moved in to the house a few months before.

Good things, neighbors are.

hibiscus in the west end


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