I’ve never been that neighborly. In the past I’ve mainly just referred to my neighbors in the most basic ways – i.e. “the crazy Christmas decorations people” or simply “yellow shutters.” I am cordial to those who live around me but I don’t stop for a long chat. Plus, since I’m sure we’re known as “the neighbors with the barky dogs” a conversation is often difficult to carry on.
However, when we moved into our current house it became clear that we were going to have channel our inner Mister Rogers a little more (shouldn’t be too hard – Señor Rogers attended college at the very institution at which my own Groom-A-Saurus Rex now teaches). The inhabitants of the 5 houses in our cul-de-sac seemed to all be a fairly tight knit group (with the exception of the old people next door with the blind poodle – they don’t hang around much and have despised us ever since we constructed a literal wall between our properties). Pulling into our little court you see all the children from the cul-de-sac playing together … all 6 of them, with the parents chatting and several dogs and cats running all about (including my own pups – the children like to take them out for “walks,” which really just amounts to frantic dogs dragging these poor children around the neighborhood). When “deaf neighbor” put up a sign in the middle of the street (so I wouldn’t miss it) instructing us to “please slow down, children at play,” we got the picture – make nice, talk to these people and be the type of neighbor they want you to be.
And we have. We talk to Trina across the street about the many blessings God has bestowed upon her (I’m pretty sure she’s talking about the aforementioned children who run wild and dig in our yard). I’ve made friends with the neighbor next door to her, who I call Ginger George because, well, he’s a ginger (you know … red hair, fair skin) who oddly enough I’ve never – not once – seen wear a shirt. Not that he can’t pull off that look (because he can … he really can), but seeing as he’s an investment banker I do find it odd that by the time he comes home from work he is already sans shirt … as if the fabric rubbing against his chest for a full 8 hours each day is more than he can bare and he must liberate himself from its confines at once. And I’ve stayed cordial and remembered him name despite the fact that no matter how much I hint, he never offers to take me out on his boat (“Gee, that’s a nice boat George! I sure wish I could go boating. But, sadly, I don’t have a boat. When are you taking it out again? Saturday? Hmm … I’m wide open Saturday. Yep, no plans AT ALL.”) And all of the kids, dogs and assorted bikes, trykes, scooters and skates have been allowed to roll up onto our lawn as much as desired – no questions asked.
Then earlier this month (as part of the “Summer of Me” celebration) I visited an aesthetician, Joanna, to discuss various facial treatments that might help give me a more youthful glow to my complexion. As I spoke with Joanna about chemical peels and the benefits of proper skin treatment routines I couldn’t help but think she looked really familiar. I’ve seen her before. But how do I know her? HOW? And then it clicked – she’s my neighbor. In fact she is Ginger George’s wife. We’ve talked lots of times. Just last week we discussed abandoned kitties her son found and how she was nursing them back to health. We’ve corralled her dog when he escapes and brought him back to the house for her. And here we were, in her office, looking at each other face to (not yet rejuvenated) face not recognizing each other. Had I been so blinded by Shirtless George’s perfect 6-pack abs that I never paid attention to what his wife actually looked like? And did she not recognize me either? What’s going to happen when I bump into her on Pine Street afterwards? What do I say then?
So maybe I’m not THAT bad of a neighbor … I’m just as apathetic as everyone else on the block. Walking around, pretending we’re all so neighborly – it’s a scam … a ruse we put on for the benefit of looking like we’re all regular June Cleavers. Deep down none of us really care enough to remember each other’s names (or faces apparently). And that’s not all – oh no – a recent chat with the neighborhood representative told us all about their dark little secrets too. The old couple with the blind poodle – they’ve got an RV parked on their property, which is against code … and Trina and her gaggle of God-fearing children across the street, they have 2 forbidden RVs. And Ginger George and his aesthetician wife? Well they’re not allowed to park that fancy pants boat that they never share on their lot either. Oh yes, perhaps it’s not such a wonderful day in the neighborhood after all, is it Mister Rogers?
Now I can stop feeling bad about still not finishing the paint job on our house after all these months. It can wait a little longer, right? Whatcha gonna do neighbors – tell on us? I dare you.
In the end I did mention to the aesthetician that I am her neighbor ... and she gave me a free chemical peel as a result. So I do, in fact, love my neighbor. And clearly I will not be forgetting her so quickly in the future ... though now that my face is completely flaking off as a result of the procedure it is quite possible she'll fail to recognize me (again).