I came home the other day to find a white envelope sitting on my front doorstep—its bright whiteness caught my attention immediately and I hesitated to pick it up. When I unfolded the note from inside, I immediately wondered if this writer had ever mailed a letter before; the plain, unlined paper was folded in the most unintuitive way.
In looping blue handwriting it literally said:
“We are all so disappointed in how you have let this beautiful front yard go down the tabes. We pride in our neighborhood and were so proud of the previous owner. Don’t let this street go to waste!! Please!! gin pride to our street and ownership.”
After spending 18 months house hunting, putting in seven unsuccessful offers on other houses, we took a long break from looking for a place to buy. It was with great hesitation when we started looking again, and it was with mixed emotions that we submitted an offer on our current home.
My husband and I debated as to how much money to put down. I wanted to keep cash on hand to proceed with egg donation, after the crippling realization that I was just too damn old to have a second baby. My husband thought it would be best to put more money down and finance the egg donation. I cried and then agreed that in the long run, it would make more financial sense.
Ten days after moving in, at the end of January 2020, my husband was laid off without notice and given one final paycheck.
My anger turned to the house. I hated the house. I had three bedrooms but no baby to place in the third bedroom. I cried. I went to therapy.
Six weeks later my son’s preschool shut down due to COVID. The next day I was sent to work from home. We quarantined. It was a wet spring with lots of rain. Spring turned to summer. We stayed home. The 4th of July came without fireworks and the heat of the summer brought the end of July, along with a single file line of tall weeds between the garden’s front wall and the sidewalk, the unexpected diagnosis of my mom’s brain tumor, and the bright white envelope on my doorstep—four days before my mom’s surgery.
My anger was hot and quick—every neighbor turned into a suspect, and any peace that I had made with this house and its bedroom void of a crib was shattered. I penned a response the same night:
“Dear Passive-Aggressive Neighbor and author of the above note which you anonymously left on my porch,
If you have a problem with my yard, my house, my cars, my dog, my kid or my family, knock & talk to me. Talking is neighborly and achieves results.
We pride ourselves on a well-educated neighborhood and neighbors who spell correctly. So please use your spare time to work on your spelling and grammar. There are multiple mistakes in your short note.
1. Disappointed is spelled with one “s”
2. It’s “down the tubes” not “tabes”
3. Gin is a beverage, “give” is a verb
4. And the sentence should read, “we TAKE pride in our ….”
I’m homeschooling my son, while working, supporting my family on a single income, and caring for a sick parent but I have time to tutor you as well since you obviously need it. Please knock and we can arrange your first tutoring session.
I bought poster board and fantasized about posting both notes in the front yard.
My mom had her surgery, her attempt at recovery, the discovery of a bacterial infection on her brain, a second surgery, and the note ate away at me in the back of my mind. My neighborhood was no longer a place of comfort where I could get out of my car in proximity of my house coming back from my mom’s and feel relief that I was home. I felt guarded. My house was no longer the place where I could be as is; I stubbornly forbid my husband to pull the weeds, but he did it anyway.
And I felt the tiredness of it, of having a young kid and an old parent, watching a savings account disappear and not knowing what happens when it runs out, being old and infertile, but junior staff in my third career, of losing the safe space of community, of being judged. But mostly I felt tired of greeting the world with kindness and feeling minimal returns.
August has turned into September. My mom’s doing well and my son started Kindergarten online. Some days, I still fantasize about posting both notes in the front yard but for now, the poster board has been put to use for a Kindergarten project. And some nights I still dream about holding a tiny baby in that third bedroom, but most days I know I’m just too damn tired for that, and the third bedroom makes a nice home office.
And two days ago I found out the neighbors on either side of me, both single retired men, each got a note as well. We had the best neighborly chat on the sidewalk comparing notes. It is a different kind of community than I had hoped for, but it sure was fun!