We have lived here for four years. For the most part, our neighborhood is pretty quiet, other than lots of kids tearing around, the occasional doggy escape from fenced-in yards, random ferrets or cats found hiding under our deck, fireworks shot off after 10pm on non-4th of July days, etc. But generally, the neighbors, while friendly, haven't been the type of people to insist upon neighborhood BBQs or block parties, a fact for which most of us have been grateful. Until last year when new people moved into the house to our north. They came from the exotic land of California: the wife is an Associate Professor of Social Work at two of the most liberal schools in the metro, the husband is a card-dealer at one of the local casinos/card-rooms. Together they have two children, a son (no one has ever seen/met) in college and a 6 year old daughter (who is apparently deathly allergic to dogs and to kids who refuse to allow her to boss them around). A week or two after they moved in, a good friend of mine "@SHockeyMama2" (follow her on Twitter!), stopped by with her very well-behaved and leashed dog, to hang out and have a beer on my deck with me. While I went inside for something, @SHockeyMama2 took her dog into my backyard (still on his leash) to let him wander around. She was greeted by my neighbor (who may have been on my property at the time) with "Don't you let your dog poop in MY YARD!" That, my friends, was one of his first mistakes. First of all, the dog was on a leash. Second of all, no one speaks like that to @SHockeyMama2 and gets away with it. Third of all, that dog was like a child to her, and like her kids, NO ONE talks smack (and that was smack talk) to her about her dog or her kids without retribution. From that moment on, the neighbors were never given the respect (they believe) they deserve (from everyone) from @SHockeyMama2, (who, ironically, knows pretty much everyone in our city and is well-loved by everyone who has ever met her) who began to loudly refer to them in insulting terms, infused with her southern sweetness, so unless you really knew her well, it would be hard to tell if there were insults being hurled their direction or not, every time she was on my deck or in my backyard. (Quite entertaining.)
About six months after the family moved in, the fun truly began: suddenly our once quiet "stay-out-of-your-neighbors'-business" neighborhood became "HEY! Let's have neighborhood ladies' get-togethers at each other's homes once a month!" Initially, I was included in the planning emails, but due to the fact that I have an exceptionally busy life carting my children from one activity to another and a husband who may or may not be home for weeks at a time, I was unable to attend the gatherings (Ok, I admit it: the gatherings were NEVER a priority to me anyway). This, I believe, was one of my first mistakes.
My next mistake happened this spring when the neighbors decided to put in a 6' high privacy fence on the border of our properties. Forgive me, but as I watched the browbeaten husband diligently trying to measure where to put the fence while the nagging and disapproving wife, clipboard in hand, looked on, I thought that maybe it would be prudent (and hubby agreed, him being 5 hours away at the time and unable to supervise said fence-building) to go out and chat with the happy (ha-ha) couple regarding the placement of the fence. While I made small talk and joked with one of their buddies and talked about my plans for a row of raspberry bushes in the area of which they were planning to put the fence, they decided that I was angry about the fence that they insisted had NOTHING to do with us (even though I had received several FaceBook messages and messages via my children that my geriatric dog had pooped in their yard, and I caught their "perfect" little princess swimming in our pool without permission or adult supervision on occasion). The second day of fence building began with their "guide-line" having snapped at some time in the night, for which I received a, yep, you guessed it, FACEBOOK message asking me if I "had any knowledge of how said line would have been broken? you know, since I am angry about the fence?" Like I would have wasted my time to go cut their line. Which is exactly what I asked - if they "were trying to imply that I cut their line?" Wifey quickly retracted her statement by saying that "perhaps I had seen someone cut it?" (Because maybe I spent the night staring into the darkness outside the one window on that side of the house, guarding their line with my special magical x-ray vision. Yah, sure, you betcha.) In all honesty, I don't like the fence. I think it is ugly and does nothing to promote all the neighborly happiness/communication that they seem bound and determine to foster with all the neighborly gatherings they set up (but never host). However, it is a great support for the raspberry bushes I planted and next spring will be awesome for the rows of giant sunflowers I plan to plant. (I'm also planning on doing a "sunflower fence" stretching between our outside wall and their fence - just to demonstrate that there CAN be beauty between our yards.)
The summer dragged on with me doing the usual gardening (starting way too many tomatoes and actually sharing them with the neighbors), reading on my deck, yelling at my kids, mowing the lawn, planting raspberry bushes, chatting with all the neighbors when I ventured to the front yard (rare), etc. Until, toward the end of the summer, when the neighbors, through yelling at my girls ("No! You can't play with us in our yard! Your dog pooped in our yard!") and via Facebook (did I mention that their door is a mere 30 feet - if that - from mine?) alerted us to the fact that they believed that our 14 year old Border Collie/Australian Shepard X (also known as the BEST DOG IN THE WORLD) had not only gone into their garage and out the back garage door and pooped in their backyard, but she had also APPROACHED their child who is DEATHLY ALLERGIC TO DOGS. This began a series of events which may have included some FB replies regarding my feelings about passive-aggressive people, my going over to their house, ringing the doorbell several times, walking through their garage and into their backyard, only to find children playing but no adults in sight, more FB messages and finally, the husband coming over to "confront" me about my dog (I also must mention that these are very short people. Which, during the conversation, when he stood on my front stoop and I stood in my doorway, I was towering over him - quite empowering, really). He insisted that it was my dog (yeah, ok, right) and that if it happened again, they would call animal control. He had just uttered that detestable sentence when his wife walked up to hear my reply: "Sure, you do that. And the next time my dining room fills with the scent of WEED, I'll be sure to call the cops." (Did I mention that they're from California? And Liberals? I honestly couldn't give a hoot if they toke up now and then, but could they please not do it behind their 6' privacy fence on the border of our yards? And, if they're going to threaten Animal Control on my geriatric dog, they need to understand that I will go Mama-Bear and fight back viciously.)
At this point, the husband's face went white as he stammered "What? That couldn't have come from our house! That must have been someone else!" as the wife also said, "You think we smoke pot?!" To which I replied, "Either you or some of your friends do, but it was definitely pot." They went on and on about how they don't smoke weed (I don't care) and about my dog and how terrible my kids are (that really was the last straw) when I finally said, "Get the hell off my porch. NOW." Undeterred, they continued attempting to argue their case until a little voice piped up behind me: "My mom said NOW!" (Which, really, while I appreciate my 8 year old daughter having my back, the timing was really bad, since she just proved them right regarding the behavior of my kids. Regardless, I could barely keep from laughing in their aghast faces.) They finally stalked off and nothing more was said for several weeks (during which time the husband "disappeared" for over a week, and since then, I've not been given the second-hand high from pot-smoke drifting from their yard into my dining room), which was great.
After a few weeks of avoiding almost all neighborly contact and being excluded from event-planning/invitations by the wife (but having other neighbors be sure I still received said emails - ha! psyc on her bootay!), school began. I was not looking forward to the first day of school since everyone ends up at the bus stop to watch their little precious babies get on the bus. Somehow, my crazy next-door-neighbors and I managed to perform the task without having to speak to one another. However, it was so uncomfortable that I decided to make nice with the neighbors. So I took them a small bouquet of gloriously blooming sunflowers and made peace (my effort was met with the wife hugging me...ooooo please stay out of my bubble. I'm part Scandinavian - we don't invade space nor do we appreciate space invaders, doncha know? Or maybe SHE DOES KNOW? Devious woman.).
Or So I Thought....
(Stay tuned for Part II)