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the house next door


We have lived in this house for almost 12 years and when we first moved in, the house next door was occupied by a May-December couple. The husband was mid-40s and the wife was late 20s -- Al and Ingrid were their names. They seemed like a fun couple but we never really got to know them. Within the first year that we lived here, weird stuff started to happen at that house.

It was winter and I suddenly realized there was absolutely no activity at that house. No cars, no tracks in the snow, no lights on, nothing. I found it mildly interesting, but didn't give it much thought. Then I noticed Al would stop by every three or four months, walk through the house and leave. So the house sat vacant for about three years and in that time we had to call the City twice to report burst water pipes next door as the water was literally gushing from the inside of the kitchen out between the aluminum siding to the lawn below.

By this time we had our first daughter and I was a full-time stay-at-home mom. I think it's common knowledge that the stay-at-home moms on the block know what's going on up and down the street. It's hard not to notice when you're at home all day. At this time the house next door started to go through some wild transformations and was being gutted during the cover of night. The front door was not connected to the jamb. It was simply propped up.

The neighbor on the other side of the house (another nosy concerned stay-at-home mother) had actually walked through the house while I stood on look out for her. This is how we discovered that everything that wasn't bolted down (and most of the cabinets that had been bolted down) were missing. The house ended up going through foreclosure twice, but the first time Ingrid's parents bailed them out.

Al was still doing his quarterly walk through, but he had a strange transformation himself. When I first met him he had an average build, but over time he became gangly and weathered. He was cocaine-skinny. And then he started to bring rough and tumble people through the house in an effort to sell it himself. Thankfully, the house actually made it through foreclosure the second time and was purchased by a realtor who then sold it to the family who currently lives next door.

My husband and I were very happy that someone "normal" bought the house, because really, if the people who bought it were going to actually live inside of it and not use it as a drug den they had to be normal by comparison, right?

Normal is a range, I have discovered.

These are the folks, you may remember, who have four children six and under. Hubby and I refer to them in code in front of our own children as NutHouse (the mother), Lackey (the husband) and FF1, FF2 and FF3 (Future Felon 1 for the oldest boy, Future Felon 2 for the second boy, etc.) This way our kids won't know who we are bad-mouthing when we talk about the neighbors.

So the mother and I have radically different views on child-rearing, to put it mildly. They recently purchase an above-ground pool that is 30 inches high and ten feet across. With the pool has come an open invitation for my children to go swimming. I have politely declined twice already and I think I am going to have to bring out the big guns soon (bluntly tell the truth), as NutHouse is not getting the message.

There are a variety of reasons why I don't want my kids swimming over there but I'll limit it to the Top Two. She has three boys, as you know, and I have three girls. The four-year-old boy and the two-year-old boy swim and frolick in the back yard nude. Yeah, you read that right. They are naked. They do not wear clothes. No bathing suit. No pull up. No diaper. No underwear. Nothing. Naked as a jay bird.

What you do in your own house and in your own back yard is your business. This is precisely the reason why we paid for and installed a six-foot privacy fence between our back yard and theirs. We used to have a dilapidated picket fence that was three-feet high and falling apart. When my oldest daughter was three she constantly asked me why the kid next door did not wear clothes (even though I never commented on it to her) and she noticed when he did, seeing as that was the abnormality. ("Look Mom, Riley is wearing clothes today!" she would occasionally note.)

I did mention the naked thing to NutHouse and she firmly told me I needed to get used to it because nothing was going to change. Alrighty, then.

The second reason they will never swim over there is because NutHouse is encouraging her boys to urinate in the bushes. I was over there when the oldest was two and attempted to relieve himself inside of a bucket in the back yard. I expected the mother to say, "You know you're supposed to use the bathroom inside the house." What she did say was, "You know you're supposed to pee in the bushes!"

I think those are two solid reasons why my girls won't ever dip a pink polished toenail in their swimming pool. That house must be cursed.


2007-07-03 at 6:53 a.m.

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