The most interaction I have ever had with my neighbors was when I was a child. We lived in a neighborhood that had a lot of kids, and occasionally we would get together and play or ride bikes. We had a swimming pool in the backyard and another kid had a trampoline in his and those activities would bring us together. For the most part, our friends that we made in school lived farther away so we would always get our parents to drive us here or there, but when that wasn’t possible, the neighborhood kids were sort of a fall back option.
The parents in the neighborhood never really hung out together. I think I can recall one Halloween block party in all those years, most memorable to my childhood memory because one man went dressed up as a giant tampon and was the talk of the party.
As I grew up and moved from place to place, I never had much of any interaction with my neighbors. Shows like Melrose Place (think Desperate Housewives, where the neighbors seem so intertwined with each other for those of you too young to remember) made me feel that perhaps something was wrong with me, why did people avoid me so?
Now I’m old enough and wise enough to realize that many neighbors just don’t interact with each other, like my parents when I was younger. It has nothing to do with avoiding me, because I can see that they don’t interact with each other either. Being bound together by geography doesn’t guarantee you have much in common with those around you.
Our next door neighrbor will tell us when they go out of town and ask us to keep an eye out for any strange activity, but in the 12+ years we’ve lived here, that’s about the extent of the interaction with our neighbors. It is amazing though, how you can have so little interaction with your neighbors yet because of your proximity, learn so much about them, with your mind filling in the gaps with all sorts of speculation. Neighbors could be a great source of inspiration for writers looking for interesting characters.
Because we live at the end of a block, our house faces the side of the house across the street from us, rather than the front. The paint is peeling away on the side of their house, the gutter is in disrepair, the ground is mostly dirt and weeds and the curtains within the dirty window are covered with mold. It looks absolutely disgusting and I can’t imagine living in something like that. My mind fills in the blanks, and assumes the rest of the inside of the house isn’t too different than the outside and that abominable curtain. For health reasons, if nothing else, why do they not clean the inside of their house? Does the room belong to someone deceased and they have just shut it off from the rest of the world? Next door to us lives a retired Marine and his wife, who sells Avon out of the home. Her garage sales are huge affairs, with people parking in front of our house and trampling our flowers as they get out of their cars. Across the street from the side of our house lives a retired butcher. Again my mind fills in the blanks because he digs holes in his yard while wearing a butcher’s apron, so I assume he was a butcher. His yard has been destroyed by gophers and several times a year he tears up his yard with a shovel, trying to destroy gopher tunnels ( I assume). Recently his two grown sons have moved back home (hard economic times?) with their families, so the house is extremely crowded, with cars now parked on the front lawn and they will spend the afternoon sitting in lawn chairs in the driveway watching the world go by. Sometimes the old man will take his newspaper and read in the car, looking for peace and privacy, I assume. Next to him lives a single mom raising two preteen boys. She must be New Age, she has no less than 30 wind chimes all along the front of her house and you can hear them from clear down the street. On the other side of us, is the carpenter with the large family, who has a probation officer pay frequent visits to his teen daughter, the Mexican family who speaks little English, and a girl in her twenties who still lives with her parents and who is a character in her own right, dominating the scene whenever she appears with her fiery red hair, camouflage survivalist pants and huge monster truck. You can almost hear the soundtrack to Faster Kill Pussycat start up when you see her climbing in her truck.
And in the middle of all of that, there we are. What do our neighbors fill in the blanks with, when they think of us, the gay couple raising a child? A friend a few blocks over already told us we are known as The Gays in the area, yet for the most part we live the most Norman Rockwell lifestyle of the neighborhood, something I’m not necessarily proud of.
We are all interesting characters living diverse lives, bound by geography and little else. And like I did when I was a child, my daughter, also bound by geography, is making friends with kids down the street reaching out to them for something to do, when I’m too busy to take her to her best friends who happen to live farther away.