Wide Open Spaces
“When we buy our next house,” I mused, “I would like it to be far enough from our neighbors so that they won’t be tempted to have a conversation with me from their yard.” I knew I wouldn’t need to explain this to Dave, although it doesn’t bother him as much as it does me.
I’m not a hermit, I’m not anti-social, and I don’t hate my neighbors. But if I start to walk out onto my upper deck, which means that neighbors from all around can instantly see me, I will turn around and walk right back in if I see anyone else outside.
Here’s the scenario: I walk outside, to do whatever, and I’m minding my own business. After a while, I glance over and realize one of my neighbors has been talking to me, yelling from their yard, and I’ve been ignoring them. Awkward. Even worse, now that I’ve made eye contact, I’m expected to respond. But no matter what I say, I will not understand what they shout back. This leaves me with two options: casually wave and immediately turn around and go back into the house, or go down two flights of stairs, across the yard, to the fence and have a conversation I really wasn’t planning to have.
Yeah, it’s easier to just go back in the house if I see anyone else outside.
Like I said, I don’t hate my neighbors. At this point, I really just don’t know any of them very well. The neighbors to the left were here when I moved in (in 1989!) but were not super social, which suited me just fine. What I knew of them came from my ex-husband, who was the type to wander into someone’s yard and stand talking to them for an hour. I could tell that our neighbor didn’t appreciate this gregariousness so I mostly just smiled and waved if we made eye contact. I know his name, his wife’s name, and a couple of their (now grown) kids’ names but that’s about it.
To the right, we have a rental home. (Yay.) Its occupants change every year or two. At this point, we really don’t bother getting close with these neighbors unless they make the effort and/or seem like folks we have a lot in common with. The latest batch are young partiers with a couple of young kids who scream outside all the time (the kids, not the parents). Mildly annoying, definitely not people we would choose to spend time with, but otherwise harmless (other than playing music loud enough that we can feel the walls of our house vibrate – bothering Paige more than me or Dave). But, you know, they hang out with groups of friends, getting drunk (and, um, other stuff) and that makes them chatty.
I’ve never gotten around to talking to them but Dave has – just neighborly chitchat as he works on the yard or whatever. They know we both have hearing loss, but to be honest, this never stops people. They either forget, or they don’t grasp that we can’t understand what they’re saying from the distant comfort of their backyard. So it really doesn’t help to inform them; it just makes me feel less guilty when I realize I’ve been ignoring them because hey, they should know better!
A few weeks ago we had a big storm come through and everyone was outside, looking up at the sky. The partying neighbors had friends over. Dave, Paige and I were watching the storm roll in, trying to decide if it was really going to be a tornado as predicted. As we scanned the skies, Paige nudged Dave and said, “Hey, the neighbors are talking to you.” Aw, crap. Dave looked over and one of the guys waved a beer. Dave looked confused. Paige said, “He wants to know if you want a beer.” (Which was nice – like I said, I don’t hate these people!) Dave just shook his head and waved his hand in a “thanks but no thanks” sort of way, and turned away. He doesn’t really care what people think if he gives them the cold shoulder; I’m the one who spends too much time worrying about what other people think of me.
So when we daydream about our next house and we come up with features we would love to have, we do include things like an attached garage and air conditioning. But we also include lots of space between us and our neighbors. A wave from the distance is fine, thank you very much.