Thursday, June 18, 2009

Love-Fest List

Oh, there's just too much to describe. I really want to put down long paragraphs of adoration about our next-door neighbors, but I know that if you already have decent neighbors, or if you've never lived on a street dominated by riff-raff, then this will be lost on you anyway.

For the record, though, here's a short list of little things that have meant a lot.

1. Susie, the matriarch of the clan, loves the house and its history. When I first met her (we chatted together on her front porch) she soaked up the stories I told her of how my grandma grew up there, and she just smiled and said things like, "Oh, I could just feel this was a special place, filled with loving people! I love living here!"

2. Donald is gung-ho about the yardwork. They have a garden: Chard, squash, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries. . . . In front he planted marigolds. He tells me he'll take any extra plants I want to share with him.

3. Donald and his wife, Suzanne, have done a lot of work--paying for it themselves--to make the home handicapped accessible, for Suzanne's mom. And they have been making other improvements. And they have been getting the landlord to improve the place, too: Fix the water in the basement, fix the rotten soffits, tuck-point, repair a sidewalk that had been torn up a few years ago when the landlord had the water line worked on . . . etc.

4. Ron, Donald's son, is a guitar player and fan of jazz. He plays an acoustic guitar on the front porch sometimes. It isn't loud. And he is good. And get this: He's teaching his dad how to play, too. Often, they are sitting out there, strumming together. I think this is cool beyond belief.

5. I've been sharing our lawn mower with Don; when he'd complained to the landlord that their grass wasn't getting cut often enough or well enough (the landlord was sending a guy out with a weedwhacker to mow their grass), the landlord gave Don a crappy old lawnmower that promptly malfunctioned the first time he tried to mow his grass.

. . . So I waited until Don had left home for something, and I finished mowing his lawn for him. Next week, I offered him the use of our mower, whenever he wants it. So now we're both cutting on the same day, at the same height. (Hooray! Another yard in the neighborhood that isn't scalped!)

I'm trying to be all generous and stuff, so I fill up the gas tank before I take the mower over to him. He's reciprocating by cleaning any accumulated grass clippings from the undercarriage. (Wow!)

6. Did I mention that one day, I looked over at their kitchen window and saw three tomatoes ripening on the sill? Tomatoes: Vegetables: Real food. (Think about it: Many folks in our neighborhood feed on nothing but Papa John's, Zesto's, and Hot Pockets.)

7. And the windows! Donald has been unsealing the poor old double-hung windows in that house, so they can be opened to let in the fresh air. I don't think anyone has had those windows open in, like, at least thirty years.

8. One day Donald used a straight-edged shovel and cut all of the weeds out of the gutter of the street--in front of his house and ours. He continued and removed the weeds from our driveways--both the shared one and the one that's purely ours, way on the other side of our house. This was supposedly to thank us for letting him simply borrow our mower.

9. They pick up the trash around the place. Even when that house was occupied by owner-occupants, cans and other debris littered the yard. Don, Suzanne, and Co. actually pick it up.

10. Finally, last but absolutely not least in terms of how I feel, Ivy is their young granddaughter who lives most of the time with them. She's five, and she's the one I saw going "Wow!" the morning it was snowing so hard, the one getting the gentle hug from her grandma. She is polite, smart, well-behaved, spirited, and extremely cute. Her mom does her hair up in cornrows. She has a penchant for forgetting to put shoes on before she goes outdoors. Recently, she showed me allllll the strawberries that were ripening on their plants. It is so nice to have a sweet kid next door.

Okay: Now you get an idea of why I've been hanging around in my yard so much recently, instead of blogging. Except for the recent, sudden increase in the heat and humidity that's driven me indoors, it's been fantastic to be outside in the fresh air--in our neighborhood.

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