My husband and I live in a great neighborhood, and for the most part, we’re blessed with good neighbors. We bought our house eight years ago, and we’ve watched a few families come and go. We’ve grown close to some of them and liked just about all of them.
But there is this one family…
These neighbors – I’ll call them “Jack and Jill” because it’s Monday night and that’s about the extent of my creativity – don’t mow their lawn as often as they should during our North Carolina summers. They have interesting taste in landscaping. When they repainted their siding, they (inexplicably) skipped a couple of boards on one side. John and I started placing bets on whether or not they did it as a fashion statement. Their kids seem to multiply with reckless abandon (I really don’t know how many they have), which would be okay except that they don’t always watch them. Our house is perched on a hill, and we had bushes around our mailbox until a few years ago. Their oldest daughter invented a game in which she’d hide in the bushes and wait until I backed down the mountainous driveway, then jump into the path of my SUV at the very last second. I almost hit her a couple of times. Almost. This same daughter likes to crawl through the doggy door of my next-door neighbor’s garage when my neighbor’s away. Heck if I know what she does in there, but she can’t be up to anything good. They have dogs that would happily kill my dog, which would be my problem except for the fact that they routinely let their dogs escape, often while I’m walking my 13-pound dog down the street. And “Jack” is not allowed to borrow my husband’s tools. My husband owns every tool under the sun, and Jack borrowed one of them last year. John didn’t think it was possible to break this tool, but Jack proved him wrong – and didn’t say anything about it (even though it was obviously broken when he returned it). So he lost tool-borrowing privileges. Needless to say, there are days when I wish Jack and Jill would roll down the hill.
Spring is in the air, and I celebrated by going for a run when I got home from the office tonight. Later, on my cool-down lap, I passed Jack and Jill’s house and heard voices and laughter in the backyard. Without meaning to spy, my eyes flicked toward the house, and I saw the source of the noise: there was Jack, playing with his girls on their trampoline. One of them said, “Again, Daddy!” and he took her hands in his, and they jumped for the heavens, and her squeals pierced the scene lit by sunset.
As I set off for home, I thought about how much my dad would give to jump on a trampoline with my sister Taylor, who, thanks to Batten disease, can no longer jump or dance or run or sing. I thought about how blessed my brother, Stephen, and I am to have had so many incredible years with our dad, from sleep-away camps with the Y Guides and Boy Scouts to Charlotte Hornets games and fishing on the golf course and swimming in the ocean and all of our soccer and lacrosse games. And as the laughter of those girls faded into the night, I forgave Jack for his weird taste in landscaping and a couple of unpainted boards.