The Circle of Suburban Life

The house is a boxy ranch, executed in salmon brick.  The garage door was sassy, its black expanse embellished with a fifties style boomerang, in salmon, to echo the house.  Its occupants were older, and they had one car.  The husband drove the Buick; his wife sat formally in the front seat.  They did not have many visitors, and so I deduced that their family was not local. The home is several blocks away, and I passed it every time I left my subdivision.  I never met these neighbors, but I watched them for 24 years.  The house was meticulously cared for, its driveway swept promptly after any broken branches dropped.  The storm door bore reinforced bars, painted black, but incongruous in this safe neighborhood.  The man of the house puttered with the landscaping, wearing a dress shirt and pants.  He covered his head with a straw fedora style hat.  He was jaunty, like his boomerang.  His garage was immaculate, with tools organized on the walls, and no junk.  I stopped seeing his wife a few years back. Still, he toiled to keep his home up. He hired a plow instead of shoveling, and I was glad.  

Last week, I noticed that the garage door boomerang was painted over with black. I knew in a heartbeat what that meant. My little neighbor man would not be living there and caring for his home anymore.  

Soon a giant dumpster arrived on the driveway.  For a few days, shards of these two lives were plucked from the home and tossed into oblivion.  Last Thursday, I noticed that the living room was open and visible from the street for the first time ever.  It was empty.  The garage, however, had shifted from the Buick's place to a warehouse for all the home's furniture. I cannot know if it was being donated or relocated, but the sight of chairs and such, awaiting their next assignment, hollowed me out.  
Our part of this Village has no sidewalks.  We are consigned to the street for our exercise, and it insulates us from neighborly chatting.  We are also an attached garage area; we drive into our home's anteroom, without any incidental contact from fellow residents. After awhile, we live in seclusion in our back yards.  We have personally compounded the isolation with a big fence, needed to keep our pets in and kids out of our pool.  I wonder if I would have been a good neighbor to this proper, meticulous man.  I hope he had friends in the houses adjoining him.  Though he did not know me, he mattered to me, because in him I saw my own Father, and his dedication to his neighborhoods.  His determination to stay in his house and care for it was inspirational.  The fact that he will not live there anymore is sad to me. The troubling thing is that this "relationship" was all in my head- I never stopped by, introduced myself, offered to be a contact for him.  When I was a kid we identified houses within two to three blocks by their occupants.  We have lost this.  
I am nosy; I will eventually find out the gentleman's name, and what happened to shift the house from his sanctuary to real estate.  I will miss the salmon boomerang.  I will miss the  opportunity to have a friend in the neighborhood.  Maybe someone will buy the home, and love it as constantly and carefully.  They may be young, starting out.  Or older, looking to live on one floor.  This time, I will take the time to introduce myself.


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  • beautifully written as always Janet- so true about the attached garages and sidewalks, no one wants to be friendly anymore, as kids our parents sat in the front of the house, sometimes in summer till the wee hours of the morning, cans of Tab and ciggarettes in hand, talking about everyone and everything. Now we just hurry in and out, sometimes see a neighbor at the hardware store or grocery and a slight nod or small smile is the acknowledgement, I long for the days ago.

    thanks as always for sharing

  • Wow, I thought I was the only one who paid attention to those neighbors that you pass by on your way home. I have lived in my
    burb for 24 years and it is funny how you know something about those
    families you pass by yet know so little. You see their kids grow up,
    you see that they have moved, that they have just had a baby....
    2 years ago we got a dog..a large dog that needs alot of walks.
    I have met more people in my neighborhood in the last 2 years, then
    in the previous 22 years!

  • Thanks Janet ~ for making me care...

  • As kids we all knew the neighbors and packed our halloween bags full of candies. Yet we all know about the Tylenol scare and since, kids are not out in the neighborhoods and neighbors don't know one another anymore. The days of community baseball and community honor roll are nearly history. Some neighbors leave their mark, others disapper into oblivion. Your sense of AT&T reaches across the Atlantic. Thanks a bundle.

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