Mystery No More
April 19, 2008
I was struggling futilely down by the basement with the enchanted generator trying to figure out how to remove the evil spell cast by the witch we hadn’t invited to the house-warning, when I went up to the main level of the house to get a drink of water and saw my wife talking with several people.
We seldom get visitors, as we live on an island. Furthermore, we live off a private gravel road. Even more further, you can’t see our little house from the private gravel road because our driveway curls down behind some trees so our house hides from the road.
And people who get that far tend to be sorry. A census taker came to our house twice. We had been selected to answer an extra set of questions about our dwelling. My wife said, “We answered the basic census questions. We don’t have to answer extra questions. Frankly, our dwelling is none of your business.”
She didn’t take the fish bonker that hangs by the door to the census worker, but it was a near thing.
However, my wife was talking to the strangers in a cheerful and friendly manner, so I approached in wonder to see what was going on.
“These are our neighbors on lot #4,” my wife said.
She performed introductions. The man is named Carl. Originally from Virginia, he now works for Boeing. “My daughter’s partner is from Virginia,” I said.
The woman’s name Mae (a Westernized adaptation of a Malaysian name too complex for Western tongues to wrap around). She told us she is a botanist.
“My daughter majored in biology and thought she would be a horticulturalist,” I said. “What kind of work do you do in botany?”
“I teach grade school. But I am working part time while I care for our son.” Their son, Chad, was picking up and examining rocks from the collection of pretty pebbles piled on the side of one of the steps to our front porch.
“Our granddaughter collects rocks when she comes to visit us,” I said. “However, her mommies won’t let her take them back to the mainland, so she leaves them on the step when the leave.”
“How old is your granddaughter?” Mae asked.
“Four years old. But she tells us that she is almost all grown up.” I said.
“Chad is five. He thinks he is about grown up also.”
I know RG likes older men, but I figured it was a little early to bring up that topic. Also, RG’s best friend Mia’s diversity heritage may be closer to Chad’s. This may get interesting and complicated when they’re all 15, or maybe not.
Mae told Chad to put the rocks back because they belonged to our granddaughter. He didn’t look very happy, but he complied. One of these days he will figure out that the trick is to bring pretty pebbles to pretty girls, but they probably don’t cover that in kindergarten.
We were getting a good impression. Mae spoke politely to Chat, but she required him to be respectful of other people’s property.
After we had chatted a bit, I raised another property issue. “The person who sold you the property cleared some trees into our property,” I said.
Chad and Mae asked, “Where is the property line?” A good question for new neighbors to ask, I thought. We walked them over to the area where our property ends and theirs begins. We showed them the three little cedar trees and the Douglas fir we had planted a couple of years ago. “The Douglas fir doesn’t look too good,” I said. “It’s been damaged by deer. But it’s still alive”; I pointed at the branches growing at the top of the little tree above where the buck had rubbed it.
We showed the newer Douglas fir we had planted last year in the area improperly cleared. We had put a little fence around the latest tree to give it a fighting chance against the deer.
“We’re planning on planting some evergreens,” they told us. They seemed to be respectful of the property line and to share our desire for privacy.
“It’s very quiet,” Mae said approvingly. Mrs. Random beamed; she loves quiet; she loves quiet neighbors. There was a good feeling in the quiet air as we contemplated common values.
Mae and Carl had met Joe and his dog on his property. They hadn’t me the Friendly Neighbors yet. I told them the Friendly Neighbors have a cat.
“We have a cat,” said Mae. “But I don’t think we can let it out here. The coyotes would eat it.” I told them we had seen coyotes in our backyard, so that keeping the cat indoors was probably a good idea.
We walked back to our property. We exchanged phone numbers. They told us they probably wouldn’t be building on their property for a few years. Chad was restless; he asked if they could go home. However, he didn’t whine and fuss, and waited until the grown-ups had finished their boring grown-up business. We said goodbye, relieved that the neighbors on lot #4 were no longer a mystery.