Monday, January 7, 2008

Won't you be my neighbor?

We've had quite an assortment of characters for neighbors over the past six years, because we've moved so many times. In our very first place in Seoul, we never got to know most of our neighbors, but we had a roommate. His name was John and he would eat a whole frozen pepperoni pizza for dinner with big glasses of chocolate milk almost every single night. He liked to blast music that sounded like a big room full of people being killed.

Then we moved to Colorado and lived in military housing, where you are in very close proximity to your neighbors. The family in the unit attached to ours was very nice, had loads of animals - cats, dogs, reptiles, fish, and we watched each others kids sometimes. There was also a lady who lived in the unit behind ours and she would stop by with her little boy, who was 3 and liked to break things. At the time Dylann was only about 18 months old and I would wonder why her kid didn't know how to be gentle with things and why he thought it was thrilling to pee outside. Obviously, I didn't know much about little boys.

After our first year in Colorado, we rented a house off base and said goodbye to our old neighbors. Our new neighborhood was very typically suburban with houses that all looked so similar you could get lost just walking around the block. We never officially met our neighbors on either side of us, but we met the lady across the street IMMEDIATELY. She filled me in on all the other neighbors and the previous owners of the house we were living in (red flag!). You could tell she was the type who would know at any given moment if an unfamiliar vehicle drove by..."Hmm, that sounds like a '98 Chevy Suburban with tinted windows and the child safety locks disabled. Who on earth could that be?" Her family had the biggest house on the block and it watched over the neighborhood with its giant reflective windows. I had never seen windows like that on a house before, only on office buildings. I spent the next year feeling like I lived across from one of those giant interrogation room mirrors, imagining Patrice standing on the other side with binoculars. In all the times I talked to her, I never received evidence to the contrary. She always knew every mundane thing that was going on in minute detail.

At that time we also had a neighbor across the street who had 3 kids, but you never saw the youngest. The oldest two were always outside, left to their own devices. This gave Patrice something to watch, with her binoculars. Sometimes they even had very vocal fights over the fence where the lady would shout, "My husband makes $60,000 a year!!" And Patrice would shout, "Ha! Ha! That is how much I paid for these binoculars! Do you know that your son broke a worm into 5 pieces the other day and fed it to the ants that live in the sidwalk?!"

In Georgia we had the German neighbors with 8 kids and the guy next door who tended rosebushes from sunrise to sunset, every day. The first time we met the Germans they were talking about how American neighbors are so private and that they didn't know many people on the block. They wanted neighbors where the kids all go to each others' houses and the doors are always open and all that. We thought, yes, that's very sad, now excuse us while we go disappear in our house and never speak to you again.

The Germans turned out to be good neighbors and our kids played together all the time. They took care of our cat when we were out of town. The rosebush guy always chatted with the kids and kept an eye out for troublemakers, but not like Patrice behind the interrogation mirror, he was right out in the front lawn. They were good neighbors.

In Minnesota we have had great neighbors. The lady next door trudged over after we had gotten over a foot of snow to bring a bucket of homebaked goodies. The neighbors on the other side of us plowed us out twice after a big snow. There are lots of kids and they all play together.

After we move we'll get to start all over again with new neighbors. Maybe they will be friendly and helpful, maybe they will have reflective windows and binoculars, maybe they will never introduce themselves and we'll never know who they are. As long as they don't have a problem with little boys who break things and think it's thrilling to pee outside, I guess we'll be alright.

Still haven't heard anything about the move!


cameo said...

the name alone sparks images of snobbery.
do you keep in touch with any of these people?

Jessi Louise said...

Not really. For a little while after the move, but contact kind of fades after that.