By Daniel Dunaief
We are one of the loudest families on the block, and there are only four of us when we’re all home. Well, five, if you count the dog, and you should definitely count the dog.
Every so often, my dog gets on one of his benders where the entire neighborhood has to hear him. He races into the backyard and barks at shadows that my eyes, and the eyes of my son, who runs to the back door and turns on the light, can’t see either.
Every neighbor presents his or her unique challenges to a block where we continue to spend a large percentage of our time. There’s the guy who drives too fast. We all glare at him, but he doesn’t seem to notice. He probably can’t see us because he’s moving too quickly and exists in a different space-time continuum. Don’t you love a word like continuum that dares to have two “u’s” in a row?
Then there’s the neighbor whose house is under constant construction. No matter what season, time of the month, or time of day, construction people are always there, digging, pulling, pushing, installing, removing, re-laying, resurfacing, ripping up, putting back down.
Who needs all that continuous fixing? I don’t even live in their house and I’m exhausted by the constant change. Sure, it’d be nice if that bulb above my wife’s head in our bedroom actually worked, but my arms are too short on the ladder and the bed is in the wrong place. I put my son on my shoulders and he reached up and turned, but the bulb and the fixture kept spinning.
On the other side, we have a lovely neighbor who is so nice that even the people who frown at the bunnies and deer, which prance through our neighborhood as if they were responding to a cue from a Disney director, smile at her. Her smile and laughter seem like a starter’s gun, waiting for a small cue to explode to the surface.
Anyway, the rest of her family is friendly enough, but doesn’t share her ebullience. They do, however, love their cars. The louder the sound, the more impressive the car, or so it seems. Their driveway hosts regular revving contests. Okay, how many columns have words with two consecutive “u’s” and two consecutive “v’s” in them? Revving continuum, anyone?
Somehow, despite the constant cacophony from the driveway, their house attracts an abundance of magnificent birds, even when they use the leaf blower to keep their immaculate backyard free of the few leaves with the temerity to fall on their property.
Then there is the talker. She’s incredibly sweet, insightful and intelligent. The two challenges are that the polite banter doesn’t seem to have a natural end, and she is so soft spoken that I find myself nodding and raising my eyebrows, hoping I’m offering the proper response to questions I can’t hear. I can’t move closer to her because we react to people as if they were porcupines, with six foot quills.
Then there are the adorables. These are the families that have young children who giggle, laugh and play, blissfully unfocused on the pandemic and thrilled that they are out on a bike or that they can identify a bird that passed overhead. They race each other on tiny bikes, ask me why I’m wearing the same sweatshirt again, and skip to the sound of music I can’t hear. They also see the nonstop trucks delivering materials to the construction house as a source of entertainment. One of our young neighbors was on her way to school on a recent morning. Her mother stopped her car and rolled down the window so she could tell me about Mrs. Cathy and Ms. Mary. Those happy adorables are the block winners.