The Neighborhood

New neighbors, again. How is it that none of you rushed over here and bought the house next door (not that one*, the other one) saving me from the sword of damocles that every queer person nestled snug into a right-wing state fears? I sometimes wonder if any of you remember that I’m flagrantly living in sin with my wife. But is it living in sin if you can’t get married? Every time I see an new follower alert I wonder how quickly they will unfollow once they realize I’m not straight. Way to go, Mer, marginalize yourself so they don’t have to!

Back to the neighbors. We’ll miss this particular lot more than the last ones. But she’s newly pregnant and once that happens the timer starts ticking on our little houses. Three bedrooms and one itsy-bitsy bath seem a little snug (first-world problems) for a three person family and live-in relatives. Having just done this for an agonizing five months, I know. They are the sort that let our dog out when we’ll be home late and call if there is a strange person skulking around (not to worry, this happens infrequently). Their principal downfall is not being as concerned about zombies as the other neighbors are. We’re all in this together, folks.

We ran into their realtor at the grocery who, over her kombucha filled cart, which, to be honest, left me in an uncertain awe, told us that the incoming family was young and also expecting. I suppose one man’s three bedroom shack is another’s palace. While I was glad to hear this, there’s no automatic young=open-minded pass and so I’ve got my fingers crossed while we wait for them to move in.

The other side of the street is also in peril (and not just from zombies and hosta-munching deer). Of the three directly over, one pair permanently moved to the dementia unit after a winter mishap involving the fire department and an axe, another is facing increasing home care needs from her daughter with worsening MS, and the third couple was just recently hit by a semi after going the wrong way on a highway ramp (they are fine, miraculously, though after his stroke, he has dwindled alarmingly fast). They are all closing in on 80 which means we do a lot more Christmas tree installing and lightbulb changes.

We are astoundingly lucky, aren’t we? I think so. I’d like the luck to hold out for this next family, too. Cross your fingers!


*also, that turned out totally fine. I’m not a worrier. At all. Ever.


The Vans. A Drama.

It started with a faded, beat-up panel van parked across the street. At first, we wondered if our elderly neighbor (Sydney) was having work done. And then we noticed a man driving a white Explorer parking behind the van, and then driving the van away. In the morning, picking up the van. In the evening, parking the van. Every morning, our dog barking. Every evening our dog barking (and waking RR up). Never once did he go inside Sydney’s house or even wave at the window in a halllo! nice of you to let me park here! sort of way.

We thought he might be part of the construction crew working a nearby endless road construction project. A month passed, the roadway finished, the van stayed on. Bothered by both the eyesore and the stranger danger aspect, we thought about leaving cookies and a note, “It doesn’t seem like you live around here. Would you please move your van?” And then it stopped moving. For a week it sat, tree branches and leaves gathering around it. We consulted the city regulations for rules about abandoned vehicles and called to complain.

Maybe you’re wondering, what’s wrong with a van? Or you might be saying, it’s a public street, he can park there if he wants. There really isn’t anything wrong with it, except that it’s a stranger inexplicably in the neighborhood. It’s not as though we’re on a busy city street. The houses have a bit of space between them and, while there is room for a couple of cars to park in front of each house, all of them have driveways and street-parked cars are usually just visiting.

Then a new van showed up. Shiny and respectable, it bore the logo of a well-known local repair company. And shortly after came the white Explorer for the swap. And then the man started parking his Explorer in front of our house. The dog lost his mind. Time for action and further investigation. Debra called the company to inquire whether work was being done in the area and I popped over to Sydney’s bearing a check for her daughter’s diabetes fundraising. I admit it, I was willing to pay for information. The course of the conversation eventually turned to the van (see paying for information).

Wouldn’t you know, Sydney was also bothered by the van(s). The man, she said, lived at the end of our street (a few blocks away) and is the grandson of her neighbor. He complained there wasn’t room in front of his house for the van and used to park it in the driveway of the neighbor on the other side of grandma until that neighbor got tired of negotiating around the van. Then he moved the van in front of grandma’s house where it caused visibility problems when both grandma and Sydney were backing out of their drives. So he moved in front of Sydney’s house. She was plenty tired of him parking there, she said, especially since he hadn’t asked. She wondered why the Explorer was now residing in front of our house and suggested we amiably ask him to move on.

Overnight, all of the vehicles disappeared. I felt a little guilty but relieved that our dog had stopped barking (he doesn’t, for the record, bark at any of the usual residents) and that the stranger had stopped parking his car in front of our house. I drove down to the end of the street to see his house (easily identified by the vans) and there is plenty of room to park, though, with his minivan, explorer, and vans, it does look a little shabby. Still, I’d rather he keep his vehicles in front of his house.

This morning, Sydney popped over while we were weeding to ask if we’d talked to the man. We hadn’t, we allowed, though we were happy it had moved on. She said grandma was blaming Ann, whoever that is, clearly there’s a bit of bad blood there. Sydney was just as happy as we were to see it gone and we agreed to let the mystery of the van fade quietly away. Between you and me, the local repair company surely didn’t appreciate the bad business.

This is what it takes to distract me that I am 13 days past ovulation and probably not pregnant forever. We’ll see. At least I’ve had the vans to distract me.


Front Page

I’ll admit it, we get the newspaper. The actual paper. Delivered to our door. I know. We’re like dinosaurs. It doesn’t make it any better that the reason we got the subscription was to please my parents during the two weeks of the year they are visiting. Or that the reason we kept the subscription was because we like to do the crossword.

That’s right. I’ll let you take that in.

On Sunday, I flipped over the front page and there we were, D, RR and I, blowing bubbles in the backyard.

We knew we’d be in the paper again since D did another interview about the DOMA decision and the paper sent a photographer out to take our picture (one portrait, she said, one candid). We didn’t expect it to be Sunday’s paper. Or on the front page.

And although I am not particularly skilled at the art of writing a short piece, I’m good enough to know I’ve gone about this all the wrong way. This post isn’t about going out to get the paper with my cane, house slippers, and dentures or about being in the gay couple of the moment in our small town. It’s about self-image. Way less interesting, I know.

I love that we are the sort of people that make it safe to be okay with marriage equality*. I don’t fear for our safety and I don’t mind being the go-to gays for the local press. But the pictures, you guys. I wish I were the sort of person whose first reaction to a front page shot was ohmygod that’s so cool and not gah I can’t share this with my friends.

Instead I think, I don’t look that lumpy in person. Or maybe I do. Why did I pick that shirt, it makes me look as if I’m wearing the same clothes as in the last photo we took. And ugh, people will think my arm is huge but it’s my scar arm** and there’s nothing I can do about it. Why don’t I have shirts with longer sleeves? Let’s face it, longer sleeves can’t help this. I can’t tell that I’ve lost 50 pounds. Oh wait, I now have the melted candle look that’s a sad side effect of going from big to less big. Surprise, it doesn’t actually come off the way you’d expect it to. I’m ashamed to show this to my friends.

Seriously. I am much more confident than this. But there it is. I’m proud of my wife for her well-spoken interview pieces and I could look at her all day and never get tired of it. My daughter, well, when I say she’s cute it’s not just motherhood talking. In my eyes, next to them I look stiff, flat featured, squinty, and wholly unattractive.

I’m not fishing for compliments here but I never want to be the person who, when someone says I saw you in the paper!, responds with Ugh, I know, worst picture ever, right?! So I keep my mouth shut and say something appropriate and then go off to die a little. I sure as hell don’t want my kid picking up any of this. So consider this the last time you’ll hear this and, if you listened this far, there’s a scar arm picture as a reward.

*You all, of course, don’t need a reason but my 70-something conservative neighbors might.

** Also, how is it I never ever showed you a picture of my scar arm!?! Obviously, it’s the day after the melanoma surgery, I’m drugged and glazed, and I’m hiding the 50 pounds I eventually lost, sort of.


Like Sands Through the Hourglass

That was a Days of Our Lives reference not a prelude to an introspective, abstract, depressing, bellybutton gaze.

Did you know that when my mom was pregnant with me she was on bedrest forever and she religiously watched Days of Our Lives?  And then, she tells me, she spent the days dressing me up in tiny outfits and watching the program with my grandmother and waiting for my dad to come home from the airforce.  Sometimes, she says, she’d dress me up in outfit after outfit “just like a little doll.”  Did you also know I hate trying on clothes?  No coincidence, I’m sure.

I’m just bringing a patch of light to the suckiness of our excellent neighbors moving away.  We called it back in April – those home improvements were not because they were staying but probably because they were trying to get the most money possible for the house.  Which, good.  Also good, we get to steal pictures of the gorgeous inside for when we have enough money for our own remodel.

Sad because they are good neighbors.  Sad because it means the people who move in could be weird or hateful or unpleasant.  Probably, they will not have a child one week younger than RR.  We’re hoping the built in playhouse and tree swing out front will entice a family with kids.  Maybe there will be a delightful 17-yr-old who loves to babysit and hates using a cell phone.  Maybe the new neighbors will be queer.  Maybe they will own a bakery and bring us all the pies at the end of the day.  What?  A girl can dream.

On to the next chapter.


In the evenings, we come home from work* and the minute we shut the front door RR says, “Outside.” Gone are the days when we leisurely shed our work clothes, slipped into sandals and meandered outside to throw the ball for the dog. Now we are sharply dragged to the back door, shoved past the dog and charged down the steps into the freedom of the backyard. There is no time to find jeans and a tshirt, no time to grab a snack, no time to do anything but launch ourselves down the steps, into the grass and down the Hill.** Running down a hill is my daughter’s favorite pastime. But that’s not the point.

There we are in the backyard and there the neighbors are in theirs. They have the Hill too, and a daughter (4) and a son (a week younger than RR). I have never seen anything so cute as when the three of them abandon their individual Hill races and race to the picket fence, pressing their faces through the slats and cheerfully shouting each other’s names. Over the cheery shrieking, we have an end-of-day howdy with the husband and wife while he waters the lawn/strings the hammock/plays catch with the kids and she hands us a pile of hand-me-downs or trades horrified gasps over daycare shenanigans. They are our age and perfect. They don’t seem to care that we are gay. But that’s not the point.

Now and again, just enough of the time, dad lifts daughter over the fence to race up and down our Hill with RR. RR is invited to their yard to play on the water table. The kids slip in and out of the adjacent gates (to our horror – stay in the yard, you devils!). We laugh and joke about cutting a tiny gate between yards. We rescued their dog when she escaped and they were gone for the day. They brought us brownies on the heels of a bad week.*** The point is, I couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect house, yard, Hill, family, neighborhood. I sometimes lie awake at night wondering if they will move. I find I’m heartened when they make improvements to the yard that make me think they’ve settled in for the long haul. They built a playhouse. They sunk a hammock in with a cement post.

It’s only fair that our OTHER neighbors would hate kittens or lay around smoking and drinking and carousing. Instead, they wave to us as we grill our suppers. They amble over with a glass of wine to chat about vegetable gardens or their Great Pickle Experiment. **** They have friends with kids that race around their yard in pretty garden dresses waving at RR. Sometimes we bemoan our lawnmowers or the heavier than usual mosquito season.*****

There’s no end to this post. I hope there won’t be. We’ve had more death this week. And disease. Loneliness and despair as we mourn D’s mom. Frustration as we deal with estate issues. Through overcommitments at work I find I have very little personal reserve of strength and no source of replenishment. But our life? You know that whole life picture? It’s awesome, even if sometimes it’s not possible to believe it.

*Maybe little known fact: We work at the same university and carpool to and from work. Surprisingly, we have not run out of things to talk about. Yet.

**The main feature of our yard is an insistent downgrade dead-ending into a spiky wooden fence.

***I’ll spare you the details about Hand, Foot and Mouth but I’ll tell you that I’ve rarely seen anything so heartbreaking as two little girls who can’t play because our family is a biological disaster.

**** Failure.

***** Don’t judge us. We really ARE those people. Sorry if you have been mislead by our repeated tales of drinking at the bars with our hot model friends.

******I would name this We Are Lucky Bastards, but given the turn life has taken of late, that would be absolutely incorrect.