I remember dreaming about owning a home. I would have a pretty little house, with a pretty little yard, and when I moved in the neighbors would bring me pie. We would have neighborhood block parties, and a neighborhood watch, and everyone would be friends. I must have watched too much Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers as a child.
I did get the pretty little house. I love my house. Admittedly, my daydreams didn’t show me cleaning, cooking, cleaning, and oh, cleaning all the time, but hey, fantasies are sometimes shortsighted. I got the pretty little yard, too. It was prettier before I decided I wanted to play gardener, carpenter and landscaper all at the same time and it is currently in the middle of a half dozen projects, but it will be pretty when I’m done. Eventually.
I can’t fix what’s wrong with the neighbors.
I live in dandelion alley. I do not have dandelions. I pull and mow and spray and my grass is green; not green and yellow polka dotted. I think my neighbors must work for a dandelion seed farm or something because there is no other reason for a person to grow that many dandelions in their yard. And I could handle the yellow carpet if they mowed it before it all went to seed, but alas, they apparently do not own a lawnmower. You know you have a problem when spring rolls around and the cashiers at the garden center start gleefully rubbing their hands together when you walk in the door. I could even handle it if it was only one house, but unfortunately, they seem to have formed a support group and the other neighbors have taken the “if you can’t beat em, join em” approach.
We have our own version of the red breasted robin to signal that spring has arrived. He’s the block screamer. His song is not as melodious, nor is he anywhere near as attractive, but he comes out in the spring and stays for the summer, migrating back to his living room when winter comes. From him I have learned whole new ways to string curses together. I have never met his child, but I know her name is Amanda, because every yelling marathon begins with “AMANDA…….”. I have never met him either, but this is what I’ve learned from him. If you come near his truck when he’s working on it, it will be probably fall on you and crush you. If you go anywhere near a stray dog it will chase you down and rip your throat out or scar you for life. If you are wearing clothes that don’t match everyone will make fun of you and think you’re an orphan. Everyone in the neighborhood will take turns running you over with their cars if you step into the street. There is a wealth of knowledge to be learned from this man, I'm sure. I would complain about him, but somehow he is on the HomeOwners Association committee for my neighborhood. He doesn’t own a lawnmower either.
After four years, I still don’t know my neighbors names. I do chat with my next door neighbor occasionally, usually about the dandelions, but we’ve never introduced ourselves. No one ever brought me pie, but one of my neighbors did bring me a plate of oreos – right before asking me if I cared to smoke a joint with him. I think the oreos were supposed to be for afterward. We don’t have a neighborhood watch, but the 2 German Shepards next door bark all night long, so that should keep strangers away.
But one night a year, all of my suburban dreams come true. On the fourth of July, you will find every one of my neighbors, myself included, sitting out at the end of our driveways watching the fireworks display going on at the park. We all get a bag of our own fireworks and take turns setting them off so we can all enjoy them longer. The kids run around with sparklers (except Amanda, who will undoubtedly put her eye out before setting herself on fire) and the adults enjoy a refreshing beverage or two. I will go to sleep with the sounds of illegal fireworks being set off throughout the town, and all will be well.
Until the next morning, when I will be up at 6am sweeping up the charred remains of sparklers and spraying dandelions.