Yesterday I moved. Again. It’s been a recurring theme for me over the years. I have never been attached to a property- but I do get attached to the people who make a house a home.
When I first moved into the house over 7 years ago, it was chaos and my place was a total mess. I had spent several months gutting the house and replacing a lot of things… so I had been around but hadn’t been living in the house. One day I was in the kitchen getting ready to go for some exercise. I had some bottoms on but I was topless digging through a laundry basket and putting on a jog bra -with no curtain in the window.
My neighbor Jerry just happened to be returning my garbage can to its rightful spot when ….BAM….he got a full frontal assault of my considerable rack. We both panicked. His eyes got wide and he was heading across the driveways in record time. I knew it was a crucial moment. This would record me as the nutty naked lady or I had to fix it. So, I quickly got some clothes on and yelled out the door, “Hey Jerry, I didn’t mean to give you an eye-full!”
He came back and said he was really sorry, he was just putting the garbage can back for me. He told me he had raised four daughters so he was used to seeing stuff like that. We both laughed. It was going to be okay. Just like that….we were friends. A few days later I come home to a little sign tucked beside the window that said “BEAR AREA”. It hung in my carport shed for the next seven years.
One of the first summers I lived there, we had a mama snapping turtle come up the bank, dig a hole in my yard and lay her eggs. We marked the spot with a stick and waited. And waited. One day, there was some activity and we watched the baby turtles emerge. Jerry and I felt we had an obligation to make sure that the baby turtles made it back to the river without being gobbled up or smooshed. We took our baby turtles named Harry, Hermione, Ron and Lord Voldemort down to the river. I kind of tossed one of mine in the river. Jerry said, “Well, that’s one way to do it.” He put his turtle gently down on a stick and let the baby turtle find its own way into the river. I learned something. When you are trying to save something it is best not to kill it before you have a chance to save it. Patience, little grasshopper. I did better with my second turtle.
It’s not like it happens overnight. But, little by little I would reveal bits and pieces of my past to Jerry. He was a good listener. He had a very successful marriage, so he was pretty good at giving out love life advice. He spent a lot of years in the automotive industry so he would take notice of the vehicles that would sometimes park in my driveway. Sometimes, he would ask where the Honda went and I would say, “He’s long gone Jerry”… and he would say, “He’ll be back.” And then we would laugh. He lost his wife a few years back and asked me if I liked being alone. I told him I liked being alone more than I liked being with the wrong person… but I would like it better if I could be with someone who didn’t drive me nuts. It’s tough out there. When you find someone who doesn’t drive you nuts, I would recommend you hold on tight. I think Jerry would agree with me. See, I was listening.
Winter in Wisconsin can be tough. Early on, Jerry showed me how to use his snow blower ‘just in case’. I really never had to do any snow-blowing because he would do it for me. He knew my schedule and I would hear the snow-blower start up around 6 am and he would plow me out. He did my driveway before he did his own. That is a major act of kindness. Last year, I did get to do some snow-blowing because Jerry had a bum ankle from falling on the ice. I would go over and fire up the snow blower and start plowing his driveway. He would yell at me to go do my own and leave his for later. No way! This was my chance to finally reciprocate. It’s a good problem to have when you and your neighbor are yelling at each other for getting the others driveway plowed first. Kind of like when you go out to dinner with old friends and everyone fights over who gets to pay the bill. Those are the days! By the way, snow-blowing in the moonlight is kind of fun in a weird Zen way. Just trust me on this one. I think it may have something to do with sniffing gasoline.
I travel sometimes and would most often remember to give Jerry a heads up about my absence. He hung a little thermometer in my kitchen window (scene of the nakedness) so he could check to make sure my heat worked during the winter so I wouldn’t have frozen pipes if something bad happened. Sometimes, I would forget to tell him about my traveling so he would call my Mom to make sure I was okay.
When you live alone, it is nice to have someone notice if you might be dead or not quite dead laying in a heap at the bottom of the cellar stairs.
I really could go on and on… about the time we took on the City government for giving us tickets for improper sidewalk maintenance and we were victorious, or our many garden projects including the ill-fated asparagus patch or the hornet’s nest incident…. You get the picture.
When I had to leave for the last time, we both got really teary. I told Jerry, “I refuse to say goodbye.” He said, “Okay.” As he was walking down the driveway, I yelled “I love you Jerry!” and he yelled back, “ I love you too, Jill.”
If you are going to yell at someone, those are the best words to use.