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05/07/2010

Friends, Enemies or Neighbors?

©2008 Jenna Hatfield When we bought our house in a small Ohio city, we were on an eight year plan. We figured that we'd live in our first home for that length of time, invest some elbow grease and money into various projects and sell seven-and-a-half to eight years later with the hope of a slight profit and a slightly bigger home. That was in early 2006.

Is it 2014 yet?

Our neighbors are less than ideal and that's really the main issue. Our house, while smaller than some of our friends, mostly fits us. We don't have some things that we'd like (a front porch, a garage) but we do have some other great things (the deck we built last year, the new wood laminate flooring we just put in, a big playroom for the boys). If this house happened to be in the middle of a field with no neighbors as far as the eye could see, we'd be set for life. It's not in the middle of the field. And if the market would allow us to sell right this very second, we'd be Outtie 3000.

Part of it is my fault. Or, rather, let's get all Freudian: part of it is my parents' fault. I grew up on an 89 acre farm. My neighbors were my grandparents. No one drove down our lane at 1:00 in the morning with the bass blasting. No one drove down our lane ever. When we visit the farm now and put the boys down for a nap, the only people waking them up by making too much noise are my loud-mouthed relatives. (That's not an insult. I'm included in the loud-mouthed part there; it's genetic.) I could walk around outside pantsless on the farm if I so desired and no one was the wiser. Things are different here. I have to wear pants.

I'm not the only one annoyed, mind you. My husband has had it "up to here" with the noise, the drugs and the general lack of neighborliness. Our neighbors are not reminiscent of Mr. Rogers. It's not that we're impolite; we're nice! We loan shovels and ladders and make occasional small talk. But it's hard. My husband and I argue about the neighbors. Their noise causes stress in our household. We installed more locks on our doors out of safety concerns. We're just kind of over this street.

The house directly behind one of my best local friend's house is for sale. I stood in her yard the other evening watching her four girls chase around my two boys. She said that if we bought it we could put a big playscape in between the two backyards. We could all go geocaching together. I wouldn't have to drive 15 minutes out of my way for her to watch my kids when I got called into work. It would be swell.

Except... would it?

I made a joke about how when our children are all teenagers, my boys would then sneak out to make out with her girls. We laughed. It's not very funny. The conversation brought to mind my best friend in college and the year we tried to live together. I'm surprised we didn't kill one another. Too much daily togetherness nearly killed our friendship. She actually moved out at the end of that year without saying goodbye. We patched things up over the summer but learned a hard lesson: friends shouldn't live together.

I think I might be willing to extend that to being neighbors as well. Do I want one of my best friends to hear me yell at my kids through an open window when I've told them eighty-two times to pick up the one book in the middle of the living room floor? Do I want one of my best friends to hear me argue with my husband? Do I want one of my best friends to hear me have sex with my husband? (No, the houses aren't all that close together but we're cheap and prefer open windows to air conditioning. See above for mention of my volume. You do the math.) Would too much togetherness kill our friendship? Would I one day hate her as a neighbor and a friend? I asked these questions of myself the whole way home.

Thankfully I don't have to find out. The house is only has two bedrooms. Friendship saved!

This is an original Ohio Moms Blog post.

Jenna Hatfield, aka @FireMom, is a freelance writer and newspaper photographer. She blogs at Stop, Drop & Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a Contributing Editor at Mom Central Technology. And she'd like to win the new-to-Ohio Powerball so she can buy a house in the middle of a field.

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