For several years, Hubs and I owned a lovely little house at the end of a tree-lined street. It wasn’t big or particularly expensive, but it sat on a large lawn, with a row of giant fir trees on one side, creating a shaded, park-like setting where we hosted roughly a thousand bbqs, countless summer family gatherings, and our son’s wedding.
But as the years went by, we began to feel that the house owned us. Remodeling, repairing, updating, and preventative maintenance seemed never-ending. I took care of the inside of the house, and Hubs was in charge of all things yard, garden, or car-related.
He had a reputation around the neighborhood for being extremely fastidious about his lawn. Neighbors would walk by and point out a nonexistent clover in the yard, just to watch Hubs scream “WHERE??” Weeds, moles, clover, or any other flaws were simply not allowed. I was the same way about the inside. Not surprisingly, we were always exhausted. And perpetually broke.
Eventually, like many Boomers, we decided to downsize to a place that didn’t require a the energy of a cracked-out squirrel (a well-to-do, cracked-out squirrel) to keep it maintained. We decided to sell the house and move into a cute rental that had everything we needed. Life was good.
Then Hubs came home one night and grinned, “Our old house is for sale. The neighbors said it doesn’t look the same, and they want us to buy it back. Seems we were good for property values.”
“But why would the new owners want to sell it? They’ve only been there for a couple of years,” I asked.
He laughed. “Because the people who bought it figured out how much work it took to make it look like it did when they bought it. Seems they aren’t dumb enough to spend their days picking clover out of the yard with tweezers. We were absolutely that dumb, which the neighborhood loved. And it seems they also thought we were entertaining.”
My mind did a quick replay of what those neighbors had witnessed over the years, and I wasn’t sure if we should buy back our house, change our names and move to another state, or stay where we were and write a book called How to Be a Good Neighbor (Even When You’re Naked), to be given out at the next block Christmas party.
We spent the rest of the evening laughing over a bottle of wine, and remembering…
One day, I bought one of those stupid bras that claimed to be “five bras in one.” Halter, strapless, whatever. Obviously invented by a man whose fantasy women is a double-jointed circus contortionist. I spent half an hour trying to figure out the straps, then another half-hour sweating it up, trying to get into it. I finally got so frustrated, I threw it out the bedroom window. It landed smack in the middle of Old Man Brisby’s Arborvitae. I never retrieved it. And he’s never mentioned it.
One spring, Hubs was replacing all the woodwork inside the house, and needed a dumpster to toss the old wood out. Fully aware that I’m congenitally incapable of backing up a car in a straight line, he parked the dumpster directly behind my car. Backing out, I freaked when I suddenly saw it in my rear-view mirror. I cranked a hard right and miraculously managed to miss it by a couple of inches. I didn’t, however, miss Mrs. Wagonbottom’s prizewinning cat’s tail. Unsure about the proper etiquette for that particular situation, I offered to buy her a whole new cat (quickly discovering she had zero sense of humor). It took months for her to feel the love again, and her cat still hisses at me whenever I walk by.
Soon after that, I decided to focus on hiding the evidence of my back-up fails (often evidenced by flattened grass trails that instantly announced “She was here“). I bought a rake to get the grass nap going the right way again. Good idea, until Mr. McNosy Pants next door saw Hubs and called out, “Hey, I saw your wife drive over your yard, then get out of her car and rake the wet grass. What was she doing??” When I got home, my rake was leaning up against the front door, with a note that said “Anything you want to tell me?” (A week later, I read an article about getting rid of moles by redirecting them to burrow in another direction. Like, say, to the neighbor’s house. Turns out it’s actually pretty simple. But I swear, it wasn’t me.)
Home one summer night, and not in the mood for TV, Hubs jumped up, opened the front door, and cranked up some old time rock-and-roll for some living room dancing. We were enthusiastically busting our admittedly goofy middle-age dance moves that used to mortify our kids, when we looked out of the large front window to see the usually reserved couple from down the street doing a mean swing dance in our driveway. They left laughing, shouting out “Thanks for the dance!” It was a rare moment of neighborly bonding with these two. And the next Christmas, when Hubs put his 12-foot blinking snowman on the roof, they didn’t say a word.
On a warm, spring day, Hubs was tackling a big lawn project while I was in the shower. He slid open the bedroom window and called out, “Come see!” “Um, I’m in the shower. Can it wait?” “Just grab a towel,” he said, “It will only take a second.” Hmmm. So far the neighbors have seen me cave in the garage ceiling, chase my Chihuahua down the street in my bathrobe, repeatedly rear-end anything Hubs puts behind my car, and mow down three mailboxes trying to get the mail without getting out of my car. The one shred of dignity I had left was that they hadn’t yet seen me running across the yard in a towel, high-fiving Hubs for his gardening efforts. But what the hell, dignity is overrated. I grabbed a towel and sprinted into a fairly impressive 50-yard dash across the lawn and back. The neighborhood grapevine later reported that Mrs. Wagonbottom told Mr. Wagonbottom she’s not exactly sure what she saw, but it appeared to be a naked woman wearing only a towel running across our yard. He thinks it’s her meds.
And my favorite:
On most warm nights, my little convertible is parked outside in the driveway. I got up one morning, and it was gone. I raced down the hall, yelling “I think my car got stolen last night!!” “No, it didn’t,” Hubs yawned, “It rained last night, so I got up around three to pull it into the garage.” “You got up and got dressed just to put my car away?” “Nope,” he said, “It was raining so hard, I didn’t have time. So I just ran out there naked and hopped in.” OMG. “Now the neighbors don’t think either of us ever wears clothes,” I pointed out. “Yeah,” he laughed, “But they’ll miss us when we’re gone.”
Apparently, they actually do.