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Love Thy Neighbor

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Nearly every day is a beautiful day in my neighborhood, due to the southeast Pennsylvania climate, as long as one is looking at it through the glass.

Well, most of the time it is.

Spending too much time at the window or looking out of it at the wrong moment, and some unhappy soul will suddenly focus their attention on you with razor-like precision.

Don’t believe me? Well, read on, and then decide, because while I would like to take credit for making all of this up, truth really is stranger than fiction, at least where I live it is.

My neighborhood is made up of banks of row homes built over a hundred years ago with thin walls and even thinner tempers among many of those who reside here.

For some reason that I have never been able to figure out, people prefer to carry on conversations with their neighbors by hollering back and forth across the narrow two-lane street rather than walk a few yards across it.

The first time I noticed this, I found myself drawn into neighborhood drama by the simple act of cleaning my son’s bedroom. That’s right, I was inside my house minding my own business, when I had the audacity to stop for a moment and look outside the window when I heard what sounded like an argument.

Natural curiosity, right?

Wrong! In my neighborhood, residents take MYOB to a whole new level. And in the moment it took me to register that these folks were having a hollering-across-the-street-private conversation, one of them already felt my curious gaze and zoomed in on me faster than a guided missile.

How dare I listen to their private conversation!

Really? That’s like posting something on Facebook for all of your “friends” to read, and then flipping out when one of those so-called friends comments on it.

However, the latest and greatest episode of indoor faux pas I supposedly made happened a few weeks ago was when I was struggling to close a window at my neighbor’s house.

Unaware that my neighbor just had a few choice words with a dog walker about her habit of not curbing her dog just a few feet from his front door, or that she was there at the moment I approached the window, I suddenly heard a woman hollering “Hurry up and go!”

As I looked up to see what all the fuss was about, I realized she was yelling at her dog, and I found it so absurd that I momentarily broke the MYOB rule, just for a second or two.

It happened that quickly. Doris Dog-Poop, as I now refer to her, was reading me the dog etiquette riot act for daring to notice her display and decided I was checking up on her. She was sure to let me know that I had no right to spy on her for my neighbor (what?) and not only does she clean up after her dog, she PAYS HER TAXES and has every right to walk her dog to that particular spot to do its business!

Wow, talk about paranoia. My only thought at the moment was how would she like to be drug outside on a leash and expected to do her business on command?

Perhaps that would be an excellent lesson for her…

This is why I choose to spend my outdoor time in the sanctity of my own backyard. No one should question my motivations while gardening, hanging out wash, or just hanging out.

Yeah, right.

The biggest drama of the year thus far occurred while I doing exactly that – hanging out. Well, I was laying out, to be exact, soaking up the heat and the Vitamin D from the summer sun. It’s the perfect summer remedy for my fibromyalgia pain and my osteopenia as long as the humidity is low.

I have been worshiping the sun since I was about nine years old and my skin was so sensitive that I routinely baked into a lobster. Over the years, however, I found a routine that was right for me, and I have been rocking a bikini ever since.

However, I also have a long list of health issues, and a new set of symptoms presented themselves last winter that required some new medication and months of rest. The combination of the two put on 30 pounds, and at the age of 49, I was finally starting to stretch the seams on even the largest swimsuit I owned.

I did not run out and buy a new suit just to soak up some sun in my own backyard. In fact, it never even crossed my mind. Even in my current state, I am not obese, just a little fuller figured.

Meanwhile, my next door neighbor, who is a few cans short of a six-pack, apparently had his knickers in a twist over the fact that one of my male cats had a problem with his male cat roaming the neighborhood and marking my back yard like it was his own.

Even though we did not let our cats go outside, the male cat in question still considered the back yard his territory, and his ire was building as he looked out the window and saw the invader wander over into our yard, eat our grass, and do his business in it.

Soon, he started running out the back door whenever we opened it, and it was getting to the point where no matter what we did, he made it outside a few times.

Unlike my neighbor’s cat, however, our cat was content to stay in his own territory and munch on a little grass now and then. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Nevertheless, I repeatedly warned my unpredictable neighbor that a confrontation could and would develop if the two of them were both out at the same time, that perhaps he might want to keep a closer eye on his.

Well, that would require responsible pet ownership, and keeping his cat inside would mean it could no longer do its business in my gardens. My neighbor would have to scoop out a litter box, oh no! And he would have to purchase more litter, which would ultimately cut into his Budweiser budget.

One day my cat zoomed out as I was bringing out my lawn chair. My neighbor and his cat were nowhere in sight, so I allowed him to hang out with me for a little while.

The next thing I know, my neighbor lets his cat out, and within seconds, my cat slipped right through my oiled fingers, and the telltale sounds of feline screams ensued!

Angry that my cat beat up his cat, my nutty neighbor went on a tirade, “Look at you! You can’t even take care of yourself, let alone your cats! Cover that bleep up! It’s disgusting!”

“Wow…okay”, was all I could say. While I try to think before I speak, I am rarely at a loss for words. Ask anyone who knows me; I have done them all a favor by becoming a writer. My wheels are always turning and the words just come pouring out; by writing them down, I spare them from never shutting up.

This incident, however, really did stun me for a moment. I did not know whether to be insulted or amused. After all, my cat did not get a chance to do any real damage to his cat, and as an animal lover, I was relieved. But I also felt a bit of motherly pride knowing that my cub can take care of himself.

I decided on the latter when I was reminded of another neighbor’s bumper sticker that read, “My kid beat up your honor student”.

While I won’t buy a bumper sticker saying “My cat beat up your cat”, perhaps I should introduce my nutty neighbor to Doris Dog-Poop. They are both angry pet owners; they might be a good match.

Meanwhile, I will enjoy the many wonderful neighbors I do have and work a little harder to love the ones who, well, are not so wonderful.

Now that autumn is here, most days I content myself with a brisk walk and by looking out my back door and up at the burst of color in the mountains that surround our town.

Soon I’ll be busy with my fall baking, and as the aromas of pumpkin and apple fill my home and breech the thin walls between us, I can only hope that my neighbor can feel the love I put into it.

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