Neighbors and Memories
We live on a great street! Our next-door neighbors to the north are a sweet, young-married couple with great careers, a beautiful house, a love for God...and a dog that hates my guts. We've spent hours in the front yards talking about work, life, God, friends - you name it. Heck...they even let our kids borrow their Wii while they were outta town!!!
Across the street are a couple about our age. They're expecting their first child at the first of the year. They're active in their church, they have a beautiful yard, and their dog doesn't much care for me, either.
On the opposite end of the street is where my boys spend most of their time. There's kids all over the place. In the summertime, you could always find a soccer, baseball, football, or other miscellaneous game breaking out in the street. Parents sitting around enjoying each other's company watching their kids be kids. It's what's right with America.
And then you have my next door neighbors to the south.
Robin, the boys and I have lived here for almost a year. We have met every family in the neighborhood, and have been in half of their homes...except for our next door neighbors. I THINK I would recognize the man if he walked outside - I've seen him once. I know that he is married, because I've heard the other neighbors talk about the house. To say their house is uninviting would be an understatement. The blinds are always shut, and the curtains are always drawn. A handwritten sign is taped to their door. It reads: "No Solicitors, No Pamphlets, No Peddlers. Only UPS, FEDEX and Postal Workers are welcomed."
And they're not kidding.
I came home from work this week. As usual, pandemonium had set in with balls flying hither and yon, kids wrestling and yelling, and Robin looking relieved that someone else has arrived to share in her joy. "How was your day," I asked Elijah as he looked up from giving his brother an atomic neckbreaker?
Elijah cast a glance at Robin. "Tell him what happened," she said.
Shyly, he told me, "Our neighbor told me to get out of her yard."
Naturally, I figured Elijah had commandeered a 4-wheeler and must have been trenching her yard to get such a cold retort. "What were you doing," I inquired.
"Nothing," he said. "Noah threw the football over my head, and when I went to get it, she stuck her head out of the door and yelled at me."
I was steaming. My first inclination was to go over there and find out what made her such a crotchety, miserable woman. My second thought was take all THREE of my boys into her front yard and have a spontaneous, high-decibel game of Red Rover. But I chilled...and it drew me back to my old neighborhood in Fort Worth.
Overton Avenue was a great street. There weren't many kids, but it was very family friendly. I have many fond memories of retired folks who would let me ride my bike in their driveway, or pick pecans in their front yard, or even help them clean their golf clubs after a long day on the course. All of the grown-ups that lived on our street LOVED children....
Except for the Ashmore's.
I distinctly remember the first time I ever met Mr. Ashmore. My friend Joe and I were throwing the football across the street one day. We looked down the street, and a brown Caprice Classic was making it's way up the hill. Joe took one more throw. The ball bounced once in the street and safely into my yard - a good 100 feet before the car crossed our paths. When the car got even with both of us it stopped abruptly. Both windows rolled down to reveal a married couple in their mid-50's. The lady had unkempt salt-n-pepper hair; the man had wispy brownish-red hair and a pair of Buddy Holly-like glasses.
"You damn kids," he yelled! "You ever try to hit my car again, and it's the last thing you'll ever do!" And off he drove to his garage four houses down. We were stunned. Joe and I, both having lost the will to throw the ball any longer, went to our respective homes.
A week later, a game of touch football was underway in my front yard. An errant pass brought play to a halt as the ball rolled out into the street. Another friend from the next street over went into the street to retrieve the ball. Driving up the street again was that familiar brown Caprice Classic. The next play was about to begin when our game was interrupted by an angry voice coming from the car. "You damn kids! I told you to watch where you throw that damn ball of yours!" And off he drove.
It was at that moment that he no longer was known as Mr. Ashmore. From that day forward, we referred to he and his wife (I hope I can say this) as the Ash-holes. Every time we saw them coming up the street, each of us would run as far away from the street as possible, turn our backs, and wait for them to drive past. That unhappy couple has been etched in my memory for the better part of 30-years.
So a note to our next door neighbors: I don't know who you are, where you're from, or even what your names are. But hopefully you will see the error of your ways and will reach out to my children with a friendly gesture and seek to mend this broken bond.
And if not...well...I hope your name is Ashmore! Because after 30 years, saying Ash-hole STILL makes me giggle!