I don’t live in the city, but I don’t live in the suburbs. This means I live in one of the forgotten middle tree rings: a blue collar neighborhood in a mid-sized Midwestern city famous for two things: baby overalls (despite the plant having been outsourced elsewhere years ago) and the weeklong descent upon our city by tens of thousands of middle managers clad in polo shirts, knaki shorts, fanny packs, and sensible walking shoes for an experimental aircraft fly-in.
My particular tree ring is quite family-friendly. Roughly 100 trick-or-treaters beg us for candy every Halloween, and whenever I walk Daisy around the block there is a great likelihood that I will either trip on a big wheel or be accosted by at least two small children attempting to weasel the leash right from my hand.
It’s a blended neighborhood with a perfect mix of elderly couples and those fresh from their honeymoons, looking for affordable starter homes. (Which they usually buy when the elderly couples leave for assisted living facilities on the west or north sides of town.) We have everything you look for in a neighborhood: a park with myriad recreational opportunities, easy access to schools and shopping, a corner supper club, a liquor store within convenient walking distance, a used car lot, a place to buy day-old Hostess brand baked goods. It’s a magical place where you are exposed on a daily basis to a cast of delightfully quirky characters. Some go so far as to call these unique people ‘crazy’ or ‘contagious,’ but without access to their medical records, it’s hard to say.
In my neighborhood, the homes cost what some cars in the suburbs cost. Take mine, for example. You could buy a new Honda Accord for what my husband paid for our abode those mumbletysome years ago. Also? One of my neighbors may be a pedophile. He lives with his mother and buys a case of Bud Light from the corner liquor store every day. Another of my neighbors is constantly inviting me to ‘parties’ so they can sell me marital aids or Mary Kay cosmetics, sometimes in the same week. The fire department is at their house wheeling someone out on a gurney every three months.
Other neighbors include several people with developmental disabilities who live in a group home a few blocks over. I’ve had lovely chats with two of them this spring. After asking me if I had a boyfriend and breathlessly hopscotching from topic to topic in the most amazing run-on sentence I’d ever heard, one generously promised to knit me a headband and make my dog a blanket, but I have yet to see either.
What a liar.
Across the street live three elderly women who never open their windows. Despite the fact that my husband places their age at roughly “older than dust,” they still drive a large maroon sedan. You can not see their heads above the dashboard—just a slight glint of sunlight reflecting off their plastic kerchiefs, so it’s a good idea to vacate the sidewalk when you see them leave the house with their giant purses.
Another neighbor, Bea, is similarly ancient and waves only at my dog when she sees us on our daily walks: “Hi Daisy! Hi puppy!” She goes to every open house whenever a home is for sale—last year she dragged me with her to another neighbor’s home when they put it on the market, so she wouldn’t have to walk through alone. Turned out another elderly couple was casing the joint, too. They shared a nearly twenty minute conversation about chicken dinners and parish bingo and “that retarded boy in the wheelchair who always wins, he’s just the cleverest thing.”
Earlier this summer, Bea pulled up in her gray Chevy Caprice while I was outside watering my roses. “Did you plant those?”
“All by yourself?”
“Yep!” I said, proudly.
“Well ain’t you a clever shit!”
Then she shifted gears: “You know, I been in all the houses around here …” She gave my house a considering, somewhat lecherous gaze. “Except yours.”
“Wow, that’s a loud airplane!”
One day, when we finally do move, I hope Bea’s still around so she can come inside during our open house and judge our bathroom fixtures and ultimately decide that sometimes, you’re maybe better off living in a Honda Accord.
Activities! If you're in the Wausau, Wisconsin area this Saturday (July 12), stop by the Barnes and Noble at 3400 Rib Mountain Drive...I'm doing a signing from 11-2, and I'd love to meet you and deface your book with some tasteful graffiti, if you'll let me. If you'll be at a computer this Friday, July 11, visit me at The Debs. I'm blogging about my personal time capsule, which may or may not include leg warmers and a Super Comb.