“Do you think it will be a tear down?” I asked my husband, looking out our front window at the house across the street that now had a for sale sign in the yard.
“I hope not, but it is a double lot, perfect for a McMansion.”
“Wouldn’t it be nice if a young family moves in?”
When we moved into our home 30 years ago, our neighbor Joe was a presence on our block, the senior we all looked up to. Joe’s lawn was his pride and joy, with perfectly straight lawnmower lines, like comfortable boundaries between neighbors. In the middle of his yard, was a red maple tree, providing me a magnificent view from my front window while I sat on the living room couch.
In the summer, Joe would survey his yard at twilight with a gin martini. When I couldn’t find my husband in the house or backyard I knew where to look. He would be standing in the middle of the street right between our house and Joe’s, with his head held back laughing as Joe leaned in, using his whole body to tell a story. He was genuine, quick to give you a compliment, always interested in what our kids were up to.
When Joe passed away and his wife Nancy became sick, the neighborhood leaned in, shoveling the driveway and making sure the newspaper made it to the front door. But we weren’t enough. She needed more and moved into assisted living, leaving layers of bags labeled, GoodWill leaning against the garage door. Reminding me of the flowers laid out in front of the gate when Princess Diana died. The cold, gray, day reflected our loss as I realized how powerless I was in controlling my favorite view from inside my home.
“There was so much activity on our street today,” I reported to my husband, feeling like Mrs. Kravitz gossiping with Abner.
“How do you know they were contractors?”
“The street was lined with trucks and they were talking outside pointing to the roof before going inside.”
“I don’t want to lose that view,” I said to my husband, “would the village let them take down that tree?”
A week later my husband said, ”Someone’s backing into Joe’s driveway.”
With my back to the window I sat in the chair looking at my husband.
“It’s a woman getting out of her car.”
“OK, how old?
“What is she doing?”
“Carrying in a box.”
“Like, an unpacking box that says I’m moving in, or a realtor’s box with staging stuff to make the rooms look bigger?”
“Definitely looks professional.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. “I think the front planter needs watering,” slipping out the side entrance moving towards the street.
“Morning,” she yelled over to me. Ok that’s a good sign, she said hi, first.
“Morning,” I said back, “Are you our new neighbor?”
She was young, energetic, and smiling. I was surprised at how shaky my voice sounded, how emotional I became, like I was holding a new baby. I wanted to tell her everything all at once, the rundown of our kids, the names of the other neighbors, to warn her about the curb at the end of her driveway because it could take out a bumper. Instead, I smiled and walked back in as if a breath of fresh air had blown over the block.
“They’re moving in this weekend!” I said to my husband. “I should make them dinner.”
“Do they have kids?”
“I don’t know, I was too busy not being nosy.”
The next day we watched the family unload the car, two kids started carrying boxes into the house. Thinking of the time our son backed into Joe’s car, the countless trips across the street to retrieve our puppy who loved chasing squirrels, the general loudness of life that happens living next to a family of 6, I changed my plan of bringing over grilled chicken and salad to ordering a few pizzas for them that night.
“Promise me that we’ll never turn into bad eggs, the grouchy old neighbors across the street,” I said to my husband as we went over to introduce ourselves.
“So no plans to add on to the house right now?” my husband asked.
“Are you kidding? It was hard enough to buy this.” the young mom said. “My realtor told me, ‘you’re not only buying a house, you’re buying a lifestyle.” She looked out towards the street, “Now I know what she means.”
“Buying a lifestyle,” I thought, following her gaze as if I would see a Real Housewife or the rich and famous.
“Please don’t get upset if the grass gets a little long,” she said nervously, “we haven’t bought a lawnmower yet.”
“We’re not that kind of neighborhood,” we told her as we said goodbye.
The next day felt like summer and everyone was outside. With windows open I could smell my next door neighbor’s baking pie, hoping she would bring over a slice later on. In a paper bowl with 2 Hershey peanut butter cookies, which she did. When my doorbell rang a second time I opened the door to find the young smiling mom. She brought flowers and a 6 pack over to say thank you for the pizza and the welcome.
“Everyone has been so nice,” she said, “Did you see that my other neighbor mowed my lawn? He offered. I didn’t even ask.”
I nervously laughed, “It sounds like we are not the only neighbors happy you moved in.” She’ll never know how grateful I am. “You’re kids are adorable,” I said, looking over at Joe’s tree. “Tell me what they’re into?”