It took us awhile to figure out that something was a bit … off. Our house was lovely on the surface: a charming 1932 colonial with a white picket fence outlining the yard. Very Leave It To Beaver-ish. We loved our house. Our neighbor’s homes were equally sweet, with manicured lawns and picturesque front porches. Our neighbors were kind, hard working people and we all looked out for one another. We loved our neighbors.
And yet, the signs were becoming more frequent. More glaringly obvious. Eventually, we could no longer deny the fact: the neighborhood was changing.
At first we played cheerfully dumb.
“Will you look at this! Another empty pizza box was thrown on our front lawn!” I said to my husband, “but this time it had a skull cap next to it.”
“Some of the neighborhood kids must be doing an art project! I just found an empty can of spray paint on the sidewalk!” I sang as I placed the spray paint can in our recycling bin.
But you can only look through rose colored glasses for so long. Soon, I started paying attention to our surroundings.
“Does your neighborhood park have its garbage cans chain linked to the trees?” I asked my friend who lives in Georgia.
“Um, NO,” she said.
“Huh. Well, I guess it doesn’t matter. Soon the kids will be able to read the graffiti, so we won’t be going there anymore.”
“You have graffiti in your neighborhood park?”
Oh geez. Then there was the issue of our paper delivery. When the paper delivery guy decided to actually deliver the paper, that is. (Delivery was always a bit sketchy.) On days he felt like giving us our paper, he would arrive after nine in the morning, and we could hear the muffler of his car long before he pulled onto our street.
William was another problem. During the winter, our doorbell would inevitably ring on snowy days. I’d open the front door to find William standing on our steps brandishing a snow shovel over his shoulder. (Sometimes. Once or twice he asked to borrow our snow shovel so he could shovel our sidewalk.)
“For ten dollars I can shovel your sidewalk,” he said.
I peered over his shoulder.
“But my husband already shoveled the sidewalk.”
“I can do it again.”
William would proceed to tell me how he needed the ten dollars for gas so he could drive to work. Always a softie (or insanely naive) I would give William ten dollars to shovel our already clean sidewalk. My husband put a stop to William’s visits, however, when he rang our doorbell late one night and asked for an advance on the next snow shoveling job. It was May.
After awhile, picking up garbage from my front lawn became tiring. As did calling the police on a regular basis, only to be told they were “swamped.” When our daughter came home from second grade and called out,
“Hey Mommy! Where you at?”
We knew it was time to move.
Three months later we sold our charming, beloved 1932 colonial and moved into a nondescript ranch in a quiet suburban neighborhood. The only menace are the herds of deer who trample through my flower beds and give me bored stares when I run outside, waving my arms, in a pathetic attempt to shoo them away. If I find garbage on my lawn, it’s the mail I have accidentally dropped when collecting it out of my mailbox. Life is quiet and simple, and as much as I miss our former neighbors and the charm of our colonial, I recognize this is where we should be.
I also realize that part of the allure of living in our former neighborhood was the plethora of entertaining stories I always had on hand. Whenever there was ever an awkward lull in a conversation, all I had to do was mention the time I hid behind our fence and blew bubbles that floated over the street and surprised cars and pedestrians. And there was always Dave, our white, elderly mailman who had gangsta rap blaring from his mail truck.
Stories about flower-eating deer don’t make people perk up and lean forward nearly as much as when I tell people about the time we were relaxing in our screened in porch, and someone drove by and threw a Boston Market chicken carcass out their window. Until deer learn to drive, the old neighborhood will always win.