Sunday, September 27, 2009


One of the inevitable truths in life is that you will, at some point, have neighbors. Unless you live somewhere on a deserted island, other people, people who you don't choose, will live nearby. We have had some interesting experiences with neighbors to say the least.

When we first got married, we lived in an apartment. And apartment dwellers, by and large, are a transient population. People don't stay in one place for long. And with good reason. Our first apartment was terrible. It was about 600 square feet, had mold problems and no air conditioning. We were pretty happy when we moved out of there. We hadn't really formed any bonds with the people around us, mostly we just passed them in the hall and said hi.

In the condo, things were a little different. Being on the middle floor of a three story building, we got to know a lot about the people living above and below us. Sometimes a little too much. The gay couple above us was awesome. They were quiet and kind, they indulged us when we brought a five month old Aidan out trick or treating for the first time and were grateful for cookies at Christmas. Next door to them was a young military family. We spent hours talking about the challenges of having a new baby. We shared meals and playtime. It was nice. Until one day he got orders, and they were gone.

The condo downstairs from us was occupied by two families in the time that we lived there. If I could give one word of advice regarding neighbors, it is this: don't wish for people that bother you to move out, someone worse could move in next. That's what happened. The first family there was loud. Incredibly loud. They had two young boys, and everything that family did was high pitched and loud. They cooked on their balcony late at night, and the scent of some of the food was horrendous. When they decided to sell, we were glad. Until the new people moved in. Then we suddenly missed the previous owners.

The second family was worse. Much worse. It was a married couple with a teenage son. They smoked, and the smoke came right in our windows. Since we didn't have air conditioning, we had no choice but to leave them open. They fought. They slammed doors. They threw things. They left trash everywhere. And they had a large dog on their patio, and they never ever cleaned up after him. We cringed when it came time to sell our place. We were very much afraid that potential buyers would be scared off if they happened to be home during a showing. The condo fell out of escrow twice, and I can't help but wonder if that might have had something to do with it. Finally, the third buyer closed and we left. We did feel pretty bad about the situation, leaving the new buyers to deal with them. But we were glad that we didn't have to anymore.

When we bought our house, we bought it for a few reasons. It was a complete fixer upper if ever there was one, but it had a certain charm about it. And it was three houses from a fantastic park and around the block from an elementary school. Shortly after moving in, we realized that it had even more to offer. We had some amazing neighbors. The kind of neighbors that set up huge Halloween displays. The kind of neighbors that you can sit in a garage with and talk about nothing for hours. The kind of neighbors that always had a cold beer waiting for you. The kind of neighbors that you wouldn't hesitate to ask for things. The kind of neighbors that you still talk to years after leaving. The woman who lovingly hand stitched a quilt when Ally was born. The elderly woman who always invited us in for a chat, and never winced at the kids touching her things. The kind of people that make you never want to leave. Those were some great neighbors. Whenever there is a house up for sale there, we get a phone call. When are we coming back?

When we first moved to Colorado, we rented a house on the other end of town for a few months. Knowing that it was a temporary place, we didn't form many bonds there. We were overwhelmed with moving, three kids, new schools and a new area. And the people around us, for the most part, weren't really the people you would want to hang out with. We had one neighbor with a little boy a year older than Aidan, but we only talked to them occasionally. It was fine though, that wasn't where we were planning to stay for any length of time anyway.

When we moved into the house we have now, it was different. A new neighborhood. New people. New families. Over the years, more and more families have moved in. And thankfully, some have moved out. The ones that you aren't sad to see go. I joke that our neighbors must hate us. Between having four kids, two dogs and enough outdoor toys to outfit a daycare center, we are just loud. And the vast majority of homeowners in this neighborhood don't have young kids. I hope that we don't drive them too crazy.

Though it is far different from the neighborhood we lived in back in San Diego, there are some similarities. We have those friends now that we can sit and drink beer with, talking about nothing for hours. We have unspoken competitions for who has the best holiday decorations, and who can get them up sooner. We have had bags of backyard vegetables given to us by neighbors, those who are better gardeners than I am. We are surrounded by kids that our kids love to play with.

It's not all good here in the neighborhood though. Not everyone is nice. Not all the neighbors are understanding. There have been conflicts. And there are the houses that make me cringe. The cars that I hate to see driving past. There are even some that we don't make eye contact with and have forbidden the kids from talking to. They are the neighbors that I wish would just leave, though I know better than to think that the next buyer would be better. We've made that mistake before.

Neighbors are just part of life. Love them or hate them, you don't get to choose them. Try to play nice, everyone.

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