Have you ever had good neighbors who moved away, AND YOU GOT THAT CREEPING UNEASINESS that the replacement neighbors might be Bad? That happened to me this summer, as two of the five houses on my street went up for sale at the same time, for the second time. Forty percent of the neighborhood up for grabs? That’s a double whammy of creeping unease.
I live in a tiny, secluded neighborhood that is one street and five houses big. In two of the houses live long-time residents with ancestral ties to the land; we became fast friends early on and have enjoyed years of happy visits on our twinkle-lighted patios and porches. They’ve fed my cats when I traveled, and they call me to shelter at their house if storms are on the way. To you, my Best Friend Neighbors: I love you!
The two other houses used to be rentals with an absentee landlord. I was so happy in my home that it didn’t bother me when tenants came and went, until the Bad Neighbors came.
Now, your idea of a Bad Neighbor may differ from mine, and I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me, okay? May we agree that one example is a family with a young boy who circles the perimeter of their yard, incessantly, day and night, on a very loud dirt bike? Not only did that poor bored kid destroy all the grass on his yard-sized route; he wore a ditch in the dirt that gave the house a sort of ramshackle castle-with-a-muddy-moat look.
Thankfully, they weren’t there long, replaced by a quiet older couple who would get the grass cut every few months whether it needed it or not. Maybe they were trying to grow the moat grass back. At least they didn’t have a dirt bike.
The tenants in the other rental house were quiet and stayed to themselves (do you see a trend in my Good Neighbors theory?) And not only did they keep their grass cut, they cut mine too. Not for free of course, but they were reasonable and did a good job; it worked out.
Suddenly one day they were gone; I know not why. This void quickly filled with Bad Neighbors of a stripe that I would never wish for you, my friends. They made the kid on the dirt bike look like Beaver Cleaver.
This crew nearly broke me down; they trashed the place! Junk piled up on the side porch until boxes and broken toys projected over the railing; the door on that side was hopelessly blocked. Ever-growing stacks of tires ascended by the dilapidated garage until you couldn’t tell whether it was the tires or the garage keeping things quasi-vertical.
Old cars congregated under a tree in the front yard and never left. And the trash, the TRASH! This house was in the city, so it came with the green and yellow-lidded recycling and trash bins, and the larger bin for yard waste that, trust me, never saw a limb from that yard. These bins took up permanent residence in the street. Not *on* the street, as in on the curb; I mean IN the street: I had to drive around them to get home.
And you know that City rule that says to keep your carts parked by your house except on pickup days? Well, they didn’t know it. They just hauled their trash out to the street and then piled extra bags next to them. In the street. I promise y’all, I tried to live and let live as long as I could, but I finally had to tattle to the City.
Now before you call me some kind of obsessive trash-watching Mrs. Kravitz, I just got tired of dodging the trash every time I came home. My Kravitzness finally paid off after I sent pictures of the mess to the property manager and he convinced the absentee landlord to put both rentals up for sale. The Junkelsons had to move out, and the sweet little quiet couple did too. I did feel bad for them, but the couple landed well and I hope the others did too. Those houses needed new owners that cared about them.
Talk about uneasy creeping…what if the houses were bought by another slum landlord and my life turned into Bad Neighbors Groundhog Day? Thankfully, that didn’t happen. One of them sold to a reclusive little man who kept to himself and cut his grass, and he even put some twinkle-lights in the window, a nod to my twinkle-porch Best Friend Neighbors and me.
The other house was bought by an investor who spent two years fixing it up into the cutest little place. Right when it was ready to sell, the reclusive little man decided to move to Colorado, and all of a sudden, forty percent of the neighborhood was up for sale again.
The market is different this time though. People are buying houses because they really want to live in them. A few days after the sign came down on the corner house, a family moved in. I saw little kids and a dog. When the mom gave me a big wave one day I pulled in and we met, exchanged phone numbers, and shared our stories.
Dreams had come true all around: they were a young couple with two littles, and this was the first home they had owned. They moved from another town so I asked “Why Rome?” It was the combination of Rome being an attractive town, the house being just what they wanted, and they could get it.
They love their huge yard surrounded by woods. Deer visit every morning. They have a little pen of chickens, and they cut their grass way before it needs it. They have parents and friends over, they cook out, and they explore the area. They’ve put up twinkle-lights. They say this is their forever-home. Talk about the Great Neighbor Jackpot!
Next, my new neighbor joined me in wondering who bought the other house; I found myself mentoring a new Mrs. Kravitz Junior! We shared the suspense of speculation, hoping it would at least be somebody nice. MKJ was diligent. She texted me every time she saw activity next door. The For Sale sign came down; she texted me.
The Water Department guy pulled into the driveway; she texted me. Finally, one evening she told me a truck had pulled up on my side of the house. Yesss-yaayyy! The truck had a trailer, and there was a couple around my age negotiating some furniture into the front door. Maybe another quiet older couple? (Not that I’m older, but you know.)
I went outside to call my kitties in for feeding time, and the trailer man looked up, pointed, and said “He’s coming up the street!” WOW…these were cat people! Among my New Neighbor anxieties had been what if someone moves in with a big loud dog or a passel of outdoor cats that would upset the neighborhood cat-equilibrium. My three little beasts (who live outdoors because they came to me from the outdoors) are spayed, neutered and immunized, and while they stay close to the porch for feeding time, they *are* cats and they mosey off the reservation. Were the yard-cat applecart to be upset, my herd would be hissing, marking and fighting like it’s 2099.
Turned out, this was Mom and Dad helping their newlywed son and wife move in, to…the first home they’d ever owned. And they came all the way from Texas! Again, I asked “Why Rome?” and got “loved the city, loved the house, it was affordable, and we could get it!” Their beloved kitties live indoors, so all is well on the savannah for now.
Remember how the little reclusive man had put twinkle lights in the window? Well he left them behind, and they’ve never gone out.
These precious young’uns have done more to that house and yard in a month than the little man did in six years, AND she’s already brought me the best focaccia bread I’ve ever had. (Wait–I’m supposed to be bringing YOU gifts of food… time to step up my game…)
My Bad Neighbors were part of my journey; they taught me how to know the Good Ones and be grateful for the Great Ones. I wish them safety and sound shelter.
To all of my sweet proud young first-time-homeowner Great New Neighbors, WELCOME!
Gentle readers, lest you think I’ve withheld their names out of respect for their privacy, this is not the case. I’m simply being selfish, doing everything possible to keep my Great New Neighbors right on the street where we live. Don’t be thinking you can recruit them away; I’ll fight you like a cat if you try.
Fair warning: stay away from happy little Twinkle Street!