A fine line and being a good neighbor | Mark’s Remarks


In my book, neighbors are supposed to be neighborly. When you live next door to a person, or even on the same street, there are a few things you should be doing. 

Neighbors wave to one another. Neighbors roll down the window and make conversation. Sometimes,  neighbors help one another out of a jam. Neighbors share, advise, support and empathize. As I said, that’s what a neighbor is in my book.

I’m afraid I take it personally if someone doesn’t wave, smile, or say hello.  But maybe that’s just me.  

We’ve been blessed with some pretty awesome neighbors. I can’t complain a bit. Sure, we’ve lived around people who don’t wave, who are sour or hard to get to know. Some neighbors are meant to live far out in the middle of nowhere with no one around to worry about.

When you live next to other people, there are common courtesies you just have to decide to extend.  After all, you don’t always know what the other person is dealing with, so you can’t be too judgmental.  

It’s easy to look at your neighbor’s house and property with a judgmental eye.  How clean is the outside of their house? How do they keep their yard? Are their windows washed?

Do they park their cars on the street? Is their big oak tree hanging over into my yard, dropping great bunches of sap onto the windshield of my car? Perhaps. But we have to pick our battles and they’re nothing worse than living next to or near someone you can’t get along with.

We had a little used car a few years ago. It wasn’t the prettiest vehicle around, but it worked and we were thankful to have it. I parked it on the street for a few days, maybe several, while the boys were home and other cars were on the driveway. 

One day, I got home from school to find a note written on light blue construction paper. It said “if this doesn’t run, have it towed instead of parking it here.” The note wasn’t signed. Yet, someone felt a great need to express their opinion. It didn’t take me long to dismiss the incident, and part of me wanted to leave the car there a few more days. In any case, I thought it was a juvenile and cowardly act and I still don’t know who put it there.  I no longer care.  

But it just goes to show you how some people are.  Even neighbors.

Right now, my yard is the messiest on the street.  If I am wrong, I can guarantee you it is close to the top three messiest.  We might as well live in the middle of the forest. There are loads of leaves on the roof of the house. Our backyard is a beautiful blanket of leaves, and there are only a few left on the trees back there.  The flowerbeds are level full. Leaves blow across the sidewalk and driveway, and if the leaves were actually colorful, it might be a pretty autumn scene.

The old railroad ties in the back play yard are rotting and sometimes, when it rains, it washes the play yard gravel into the neighbor’s yard. The railroad ties are in great need of repair, and I’ve even had estimates on the job. But, as usual, other needs, like purchasing food, must be met before we can afford this cosmetic improvement to our yard.  

If the neighbors don’t understand, they will have to. It will eventually get completed when we have the money.

In my perfectionist mind, I stress a little over the condition of my yard.  I see myself with endless hours to pick up leaves, rake, mulch and pick up small pieces of gravel everytime one washes across the property line. I see myself having the money to build a tall fortress next to our play yard. I’m sure there would be people who would appreciate that.

But right now, the reality is this: we have other priorities. Right now, in this season of my life, the best way to take care of the yard is to wait until the trees have dropped all their leaves and rake, blow and mulch in one day. This seems to be the most logical, considering our family schedule and day-to-day comings and goings. It’s the best we can do right now, I’m afraid.

I drive down the roads of other neighborhoods and can spot the houses of people like me. I know which yards are owned by retired folks or by folks who are better time managers than I am. I feel a kinship with the ones like me and I envy the other types of people.

There is a fine line between the yards of the neat and tidy and the yards of the busy “rake it once” people like me. The neat and tidy yards are raked and mulched and have a neat “mowing line” border to their yard. You can see the property line. The raked, manicured lawn butts up against the straggly, leaf blanketed yard. 

It does make me smile, though. I find humor in it.

Like I said, we have been blessed with great neighbors. I’m sure they know we have family obligations and are financially challenged. I probably worry about them judging us because I myself can be a jerky, judgmental person.  I’m sure they understand, though.

If they don’t, I’ll have to resort to two of my favorite words: tough patootie.

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