The For Sale sign appeared without warning and before many days had passed, the word Sold was nailed on top, the letters much bigger than the ones in the sign below, tacky in their obvious bid for attention. It hadn’t even been a year since those neighbors had moved in and our reaction was swift and strong. How could they possibly leave us?
M came over to deliver the news in person. She didn’t know me well, but somehow she knew I would be devastated. We were very much alike, she and I, if you discounted the twenty-five years between us. She had been offered a dream-job in Pittsburgh, no, she hadn’t been looking, and had convinced her husband to make the move. They would be leaving with their two young children before the month was out.
The age difference tilts the other way with the neighbors across the street. H and J are my parents’ age and have been keeping an eye on us for years, taking care of our cats when we go away and spoiling Hannah. M told me that after her mother met me she said she was relieved that we were next door, presumably because we could act in loco parentis if necessary. I probably am M’s mom’s age, but I didn’t feel maternal so much as connected.
M and J seemed to be younger versions of ourselves. They were like-minded, sharing our worldview, our politics, our sense of humor, our religion. At least, I like to think they did. We didn’t actually spend much time together. We meant to, really we did, but since they had young children we weren’t sure how to go about socializing with them. I was looking forward to the spring when we’d be able to hear each other in our yards and could call back and forth to initiate a visit. If we’d been better, more proactive, neighbors we’d have more reason to miss them, but that’s cold comfort.
The house is actually on the street that runs perpendicular to ours. We see the right side of it from the back of ours. Before M and J moved in last spring, it was occupied by two elderly sisters. The shades were always drawn, and we rarely saw lights in the windows on the side facing us, so we never bothered to put curtains up in our kitchen. There didn’t seem to be any need for privacy. We reassessed when M and J moved in, knowing that one of the rooms facing us had their infant son in it, and the other was their bedroom. They assured us that they weren’t bothered by our lack of curtains, so our windows stayed naked. Recently, when it was time for their son to go to bed, we made faces at each other from our windows. I could feel the affection.
The Gentle Giant moving truck was here yesterday. The movers loaded up the contents of the house and rumbled away, Pittsburgh bound. Last night the house was empty. It won’t be for long, but that knowledge doesn’t help. I don’t want to get to know new neighbors. I want the ones we had. I’m sure that over time my feeling of abandonment will fade, but I’m going to go buy curtains for the kitchen anyway.