“Hello! Excuse me?” came from a woman across the street.
[Oh, here we go…]
“Yes. Hi,” as I continued toward my car.
“Hi! My name’s Rachel…,” expecting me to tell her mine. I didn’t. I’m not sure why. “Is that your house? Do you live there?”
[I don’t want to freely admit I’m almost never home. What if she or a friend breaks in?]
“I just…are you going to rent your house? It’s awfully cute.”
“Thanks. That's the plan. I’m getting it fixed up with the hope of renting it soon.” I squeaked out, uncomfortably. What was this, twenty questions?
“I thought you might be. I’ve seen the contractors and the lawn people, but didn’t see you much. My mother owns this house,” as she points behind her. “She just passed. My mother just passed.”
And this is what it took to knock me out of my standoffishness. “I’m so sorry.” And I was. Truly.
“Thank you. She had lung cancer and had surgery, but there were complications and everything just went downhill kind of fast.”
[Why didn’t I know she had lung cancer? Why didn’t I ever say Hello to her or introduce myself? She was so proud in that picture…]
“I’m so sorry. I remember the article when she bought the house……”
“Yeah... I guess I’ll just look for a rental sign or something?”
“OK,” realizing I should give her my number or take hers, but still not willing to make that overture. “I’m so sorry about your mom,” I concede.
I am the biggest a-hole on the planet. Why am I so private when it comes to my neighbors? I don’t want to be in their business and I don’t want them in mine. I've been this way for as long as I can remember.
I remember the article about her. I had planned on going over to introduce myself. But does anyone do that anymore? No one welcomed me to the neighborhood. The only reason I even know one neighbor is because a friend worked with her and her son befriended me when he was younger. Another neighbor across the street tormented me regularly with his leaf blower and his wife only spoke to me once. She complained that my dog was defecating in my front yard and then warned me that children were cutting through my back yard. She leaned in and whispered that they were, “black,” as if that would horrify me and seemingly forgetting that she, too, was black.
I always remembered the article about her. I wanted to paint my front door red but didn’t want to take away from hers. I thought it would be rude since I knew how much it meant to her.
Beyond the contents of the article, I didn’t know much about her. She had a gray Fiat that she used to drive around the house so that she could pull forward out of her driveway. At the height of the recession, she had a grizzled man living in a trailer in her backyard, but that didn’t last long. I think she may have gotten a small dog recently.
I am a terrible neighbor.
Here’s the article. She was so proud. And she reminded me a little bit of my grandmother, Grace, in the first photo. I’m sorry, Mrs. Spear. I’ll do better.
70-year-old proves age isn't a factor in purchasing a first home