The first new house wasn't so bad. It went in just up the road and around the curve from us. A nice enough house. Well-constructed, too, based on the illicit walk-through we did one Sunday morning after the walls were up but before the doors were hung.
Then came the second new house. It's hasn't actually been built yet, but the contractors have cut trees and dug trenches and poured the foundation. It will probably be a nice, well-built house, too. The only problem is that it's just across a driveway up the hill from our house. It's closer to us than our mailbox is. It's going to have front windows that face directly into our bedroom windows. It's going to loom. It's going to be—gasp!—visible.
We live in a neighborhood full of hills, gullies, and trees, with one-acre lots or larger. It feels more rural than urban, even though it reluctantly allowed itself to be annexed into the city limits a few years ago. There's plenty of room for deer, turkeys, and mountain lions. Most of us can't see our neighbors' homes very well, and that's the way we like it.
Except that our neighbor to the north, with his small house tucked away discreetly behind the hill, didn't consult the rest of us before he sold the front of his large lot as two separate building sites. The new houses—too close to the road, too new, and too obvious—felt like invaders. They were violating what we considered to be our space.
Then one evening this week, out for a walk, we met a young man with a wheelbarrow full of dirt. He, his wife, their baby, and two dogs are the proud new owners of the house around the bend. As we were introducing ourselves and talking about landscaping and grass seed and other such homeownerly topics, a car came by. The woman driving stopped and told us, "I just came by to see the new house my daughter and her husband are building right next door. She's so excited—she said, 'Mom, there's really going to be a house there!'"
Well, yeah, lady, there's really going to be a house there. That's what we've been so annoyed about.
But as she spoke, I could almost hear her daughter's delighted voice. It sounded a lot like my daughter's voice. Something odd happened during just those few minutes of conversation. All at once, the new houses that were such odious encroachments into our turf weren't merely houses. They were homes. Home to new neighbors.
Yes, we can't see many of our neighbors' houses in this area. But once in a while it's good to be reminded that we can, if we choose, see our neighbors.
One of these days we might have to take them some fresh cinnamon rolls.