Without prior notice (part 1)
I sometimes wonder if we realize how lonely most of us are, or if after only a couple of generations of suburbanization, we have begun to consider the isolation of our homes and subdivisions as integral parts of adult existence.
In our cul-de-sac, there are six houses. If you drove down the street, we would be the second house on the left. Unremarkable, except that of all six houses, ours is the most likely to have a number of cars parked in front of it. From the point of view of our front door, there are five houses: our neighbors to the left and right, and then the three houses directly across the street.
The house on the right belongs to the family I jokingly refer to as the Perfect Family. While they could be in their late twenties, I think they are probably in their early thirties. They have four exceedingly well-behaved children who like to play together in their back yard. The oldest three are boys, whom I catch glimpses of in my rearview mirror when backing out of our garage. The youngest I have never met.
Sad, really: their fourth child was born over a year ago and I still don't know if it's a boy or a girl. Not because I'm not curious, but because (despite the fact that we have lived next to each other for nearly three years now) we don't know them well enough to wander over, knock on their door, and say, "So what was your fourth child, anyway? Boy or girl? Congratulations, by the way."
Across the street, the house on the right always has the most immaculate lawn. I can see the lawn from the window by my computer, and a couple of years of watching leads credence to my longtime suspicion that the man of that house has two hobbies in his life: restoring antique Beetles (variously beautifully-restored ones come and go on a regular basis) and keeping his lawn immaculate.
His lawn (the corner lot, right by the stop sign) is beautiful, but I've never seen him use it—except to mow it.
The house directly across the street is a mystery. A married black couple in either their 40s or 50s, they never come outside. Like Mr. Perfect Lawn, I do not know their names; just that I could set my watch by the lady that lives there. She drives a late 80's-early 90's model American car with a soft blue paint job, arrives home at almost exactly the same time every day, and sometimes picks up her Sunday paper while wearing her bathrobe.
The house across the street and on our left is the largest of the houses in our cul-de-sac. The owners have teenage children—at least 2—who occasionally like to shoot basketballs at the goal attached to their driveway. The rest of the family might well be invisible, for all they're seen.
The house to our left is a rent house, whose tenants change about once a year. When we bought our house, it was rented by two college boys who always came over to warn us before they threw a party. When they (graduated?) moved out, a married couple in their early 30s moved in. They came over once, to ask a question, and mentioned that they would only be in the rent house until they got their own house built. They quietly packed up and moved away one recent weekend, and another equally anonymous family slotted themselves in their place.
Until last week, when the father, and his son, came over one weeknight to ask if we'd be interested in having the son mow our lawn for us.
When the doorbell rang in early evening, Jeff and I were shocked. The words on both of our lips were, "Who could be knocking on our door?" Our friends extend us the same courtesy we extend to them; we don't drop by each other's houses unannounced. Without prior notice, we make the same assumption that we have made every day for the past three years: our world stops at our doorstep.
Tomorrow: part 2.