Two years ago, Hubs and I decided to join the downsizing movement and sell our house. It wasn’t a big house, but it was pretty and sat on a large lawn, with seven huge fir trees on one side, creating a park-like section where we hosted a thousand bbqs, most summer family gatherings, and our son’s wedding.
But, like many homeowners, we ultimately concluded that the house owned us. Remodeling, repairing, updating, and preventative maintenance seemed never-ending. Then there was the yard.
Hubs had a reputation around the neighborhood for being extremely fastidious about his yard. Neighbors would walk by the house and point to a nonexistent clover in the yard, just to watch Hubs scream “WHERE??” Weeds, moles, and clover were simply not allowed. Flowers were planted symmetrically and bountifully, and the yard was mowed and edged twice a week. It was beautiful, but we were perennially exhausted and broke.
I know what you’re thinking. “Why didn’t you just relax and let things go a little?” Friends and family asked the same question. A lot.
We just can’t. We’re both undiagnosed OCD and have a need for things around us to be perfect, or as close as we can get them. We decided it would be less stressful to just move to a place that didn’t need that level of care and attention. So we sold the house and moved into a small rental. Hubs bought a fishing boat and I spend my weekends writing. Life is good.
Then Hubs came home last night and grinned, “Our old house is for sale. The neighbors want us back. Seems we were good for the property values.”
“Why are the owners selling it after only two years?” I asked.
He laughed, “Because the people who bought it figured out how much work it takes for it to look the way we had it. Seems they’re not stupid enough to spend their lives picking clover out of the yard with tweezers. And apparently we’re also entertaining.”
My mind did a quick replay of what the neighbors had witnessed over the years, and I wasn’t sure if we should buy back our house, move to another state, or write a book called “How to Entertain Your Neighbors” and give them out at the next block Christmas party.
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 woman is a double-jointed circus contortionist. I spent half an hour trying to figure out the straps, then another sweaty half-hour trying to get into it. I finally got so frustrated, I threw it out the window, and it sailed into the neighbor’s Arborvitae. I never retrieved it and he never mentioned it.
One spring, Hubs was replacing all the woodwork and needed a dumpster for the old wood. Fully aware that I can’t back up straight, he parked it directly behind my car. With a hard right, I miraculously managed to miss the dumpster. I didn’t, however, miss the neighbor’s prizewinning cat’s tail. Unsure about the etiquette for that particular situation, I offered to buy him a whole new cat (quickly discovering he has zero sense of humor. Good to know). It took months for him to feel the love again, and his cat still hisses at me whenever I walk by.
After admitting defeat on my ability to back up my car in a straight line, I decided to focus on hiding the flattened grass trails that instantly told Hubs “She was here.” Simple solution? A rake. Good idea, until Mr. McNosy Pants next door saw Hubs and called out, “I saw your wife drive over your yard, then get out of her car and rake the grass, then get back in her car and drive off. What was she doing??” When I came home, my rake was leaning up against the front door with a note that said, “Is there something you want to tell me?” I’d read an article about how to get 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, that wasn’t me.
We were home one Friday night, restless and not in the mood for TV, when Hubs jumped up, opened the front door, blasted up some rock-and-roll tunes, and moved the furniture back for some living room dancing. We were enthusiastically busting our goofiest middle-age moves, when we looked out the window and saw our neighbors 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, and the next Christmas, when Hubs put up his 12-foot lighted snowman on the roof, they didn’t say a word.
One 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 what I’ve done!” “Uh, I’m in the shower. Can it wait?” “Oh, just grab a towel,” he said, “It will only take a second.” Hmm. So far the neighbors have seen me cave in the garage ceiling, chase my Chihuahua across the school yard 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 is that they hadn’t seen me running across the yard in a towel, high-fiving Hubs for his gardening efforts. But Hubs was insistent. What the hell, dignity is overrated.
Most warmer nights, my little convertible is parked outside in the driveway. I got up one morning and it was gone. I raced down the hall to Hubs, “I think my car got stolen last night!” “No, it didn’t,” he yawned, “It rained last night, so I got up around 3 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 just ran out there naked and hopped in.” OMG. “Now the neighbors don’t think either of us ever wears clothes.” “Yeah,” he laughed, “but they’ll miss us when we’re gone.”
I think they actually do.