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After living in the same home for seven and a half years I finally visited my backyard neighbors. . .

Last week our shared fence blew over in the wind for the second time. The boards on it are cracked, and the old rusty screws that hold the boards together have worked themselves out of the posts. My wife and I recognize the small pieces of plywood we used to attach the top rail to the post will only hold for so long. The fence needs to be replaced.

One of the renters in the adjacent house came out to check on our makeshift repair. After offering to help he gave me the owner’s email. He also told me the same thing happened with fence on the side a year earlier, and their landlord gladly split the cost of the repair.

Two sent messages later I’d received no reply. I decided I would walk over and finally meet my neighbor tenants face to face. Regardless of the selfish reason it was to finally engage with them, I needed to leave my phone number and ask them to have the homeowner call me.

I put on my mask and made my way around the block. I had the unusual perspective of trying to decide which house I needed to approach by looking through backyards for my own. Soon enough I spotted my abode’s grasshopper paint job and my back bedroom window.

I walked up to the steps and onto the porch. The front door stood open behind its screen door. Naturally, I helped myself to a look inside. The living room was empty. The kitchen was sparsely furnished. In a previous conversation with the same fella who came to see us working on the fence, he mentioned he and his partner would be moving out this coming September. Maybe they were ahead of schedule?

His partner came to the door. We had a pleasant conversation about our coronavirus work woes. She graciously accepted my information and committed that they would pass it along to their landlady.

Days later, I still haven’t heard from the owner. I’m disappointed, but also aware that I have no clue what’s going on in their life. They may be out of work, like me and the tenants. It’s possible they’re even in a far worse financial or health situation than any of us. But strangely, I’ve thought about that empty living room the most.

 

This past weekend I aided a couple family friends running an estate sale. An elder family member passed on recently. A few weeks before that, I helped a friend move most of his belongings from his house into a storage unit while he secured his next place to rent. Both were extremes of owning too much.

The estate sale was laden with historical treasures as well as many mundane items. The other friend’s temporary relocation came after he had already reduced his material possessions to his minimal essentials. Both included more than I could have imagined.

I look around my own home and despite years of reducing what my family purchases and brings home, we have tons of shit.

With my grieving friends I imagine my mother, mother-in-law, and daughter having to run a similar estate sale of my wife and my possessions. I can’t imagine the pain it would cause them, not to mention the limited return our many things would bring. Particularly when compared to the over-inflated value we currently place on it all.

Then I consider my friend. While he is awaiting moving into his future rental he knows it won’t possibly be enough to transform his next place into the home he hopes it to be for his family.

Finally I remember that empty living room. At first glance it seems weird that anyone would have so little. Yet I’m always envious whenever I see a home that is sparsely decorated and not filled with clutter.

I know my wife and I are more in line with society’s norm, but we’re trying to be better. As is our friends with the late granddad. As is my other friend as well.

At first I thought it weird to see a house that has been lived in for years with so little inside. But are they the weird ones, or is it possible that the rest of us are?


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