Friday, May 6, 2011

Love Thy Neighbor

When Sugar was a baby, I looked around our small, one bathroom house and told EN that I thought we needed to move to a bigger house that was in a neighborhood. I wanted Sugar to grow up being able to play with friends in a nice area.

We found a realtor and started looking at houses to get a feel for what we wanted. We weren’t concerned about finding a buyer for our house because the market was fantastic. One night we took a drive out to an area that had just been listed. By the time we got there, it was dark and all we could see was the road where the 17 houses would be built. In the darkness, we could make out the shadow of a mountain across the lots. It felt right and we drove back the next day to make sure it was as great as we thought.

Six months later, we were the first family to move into the neighborhood. Within two years, all the houses were built and we had some great friendships on the block. We started doing annual block parties and I had a group of five other women that I would hang with regularly.

At the third annual block party, the shit hit the fan. One husband found his wife kissing someone else’s husband. Unbeknownst to us at the time another affair started. This affair was between one of the women in my little group and the husband of another in our group. Before long the affair was discovered and the neighborhood was in an uproar. Since then, there were two block parties which were poorly attended and have petered out altogether. There are no friendships. You don’t call your neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar. You don’t leave your kids playing at the neighbors while you quickly run to get a needed item at the store. That just isn’t done.

I mention those behaviors like it’s something new, a change that occurred when everyone decided they hated everyone else. While we may have all been friendly, it’s never been the type of place where one family helps another. I have tried to be helpful, thinking favors would be returned. I have watched kids while their mom ran to the store. I have taken load after load of laundry to put in my dryer when the neighbors’ broke. I have taken care of many cats while their owners were on vacation.

However, I have had issues at night when I’ve been home alone and my supposed ‘best friend’ next door couldn’t even be bothered to answer my phone call. We have had to pay another “friend’ to watch Spice for two hours. I have been stuck at the bottom of my driveway after a surprise snowstorm. I schlepped up my driveway in high heels, carrying Spice in an infant carrier and Sugar in my other arm. The neighbors were out snow blowing their own driveways and never offered assistance. I have trudged to the laundromat with my own wet laundry while I waited for my new clothes dryer to arrive. There were a few times when the husband from across the street would help me, but he’s since moved away.

This has been something that has bothered me for a long time, but it didn’t strike me how bad it was until Wednesday night. Bella had taken off and I spent hours hunting for her on my own. When I started looking it was still light out, so it’s possible that someone from the four houses directly surrounding ours saw me. If they didn’t see me, they should have heard me as I called her name for hours.

There is no “possible” and there is no “should have.” I KNOW without a doubt that several people saw me. I made eye contact with the woman across the street as she watched me out her bedroom window. Another neighbor drove past me as I stood in the street. A third carried his trash can home and never looked back when I called for Bella. I KNOW people heard me because someone yelled “shut up” at me as I called Bella’s name. And still, I look and wait and worry alone.

I don’t say this to seem cynical, whiny or like I’m expecting a handout. Even when I take my rose-colored glasses off, I think that neighbors should be neighborly and help each other out. If not an offer of help, a display of human warmth and compassion doesn’t seem like too much to ask. We have known every neighbor for at least three years. They are aware of our schedule and know I’m home alone. I don’t think it’s expecting too much to think someone might have had the decency to call to see if everything was ok. Or is that too much to ask?

My supposed ‘best friend’ was home on Wednesday night as I called for Bella. She lives right next door, there’s no way she didn’t hear me calling the dog. EN texted her husband first thing in the morning to alert him and she popped right over, putting on a great concerned friend act. EN told her where Bella had last been seen and she said, “Oh, I’ll take a drive up and look. All these years living here, I’ve wanted to see Mr. M’s house.” We are delighted to provide you with the opportunity to be nosy! You are welcome! It took her five minutes to get bored being concerned and she was gone. I didn’t hear from her again until 7:30 or so last night.

While I am infuriated by the assholes in the ‘hood, I have to also admit to being pleasantly surprised by Mr. M. I’ve heard rumors about him for years, mostly people saying what a bastard he is. I didn’t find this to be the case at all. He was gracious and ever so willing to help. When I went up on Wednesday night, he came out of the house in his bathrobe and slippers to show me where he had seen the dogs. He told me to stay and call them as long as I wanted. When he found Bella on Thursday morning, it was obvious by his honking and dancing around in his truck that he was thrilled to be the one to bring Boo home to her mama. I should have realized he was a good man. Who else pays people to feed the wild turkeys in their yard while they winter in Florida? In fact, when EN searched through the woods around Mr. M’s house, he found loads of feeders for the wild animals that live around him.

A friend suggested that I put a post on Facebook regarding Bella. I cannot believe the outpouring of love and support I received, some from friends, some from strangers. Many friends reposted my plea and kept their own friends up-to-date throughout the day. The animal shelter near me jumped all over it and kept their own fans up-to-date.

My friends are amazing too… Skinny Bitch drove around for hours looking and accosting innocent joggers. Michelle texted me throughout the day and suggested other places that I could post information about a missing dog. Many, many friends and family members offered support through the day. Friends and strangers were amazing, yet I live surrounded by pricks that wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire.

I wish I could pick my neighbors the same way I chose my friends. Maybe it’s time to move.

Ice Princess 

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