Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sign of the times

We live next door -- and I mean, really next door, seeing as how the driveway was built wide enough to allow a horse-drawn buggy room to roll -- to a lovely old Craftsman style apartment house. It used to be one huge apartment upstairs and one huge apartment downstairs, but was renovated to a four-unit dwelling about ten years ago: one large and gracious downstairs apartment, one large and gracious upstairs apartment, both with heart-of-pine floors, fireplaces and built in bookcases, and two one bedroom apartments up and down. The larger apartments are just beautiful and the bed-sits, intended originally as furnished rentals for the university students in our city, are a very nice size and feature all new kitchen and bath fittings.

In the years we've lived here, there have been several tenants in the one-bedroom apartments, which are situated at the back of the building, shaded by the spreading branches of an old oak tree and snuggled cozily up to the little community theater (former textiles warehouse) next door. We share a common large gravel area for parking (and very convenient it is, too, when we have guests) that used to be our back yard.

But last week we got something new.

An entire family has moved into the downstairs bed-sit apartment, mom, dad, pretty teenage girl who looks to be about fourteen, a little blond boy about nine and their little Yorkshire terrier.

All four of them, plus the dog, in that apartment.

They have decent looking vehicles, a pickup truck and a black four-door family car, that look like ours: older but still respectable looking, not enough rust to activate your false pride sensitivities, paid for.

So far, they've kept strictly to themselves which is unusual for our little corner. We're all very matey and trade hellos and cookies and complaints about the unfriendly mail carrier. I imagine it's because the man and woman are still reeling from losing their house to foreclosure, actually ("We used to our our own home, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, garage, yard and the flowering trees we planted every Mother's Day. How are we here, now? What happened?") and are still carrying themselves very carefully, like you'd carry a glass of water that was too full, to keep from spilling it on the floor.

The girl keeps her eyes firmly fixed on the ground when we both happen to be outside at the same time. The boy is the only one who doesn't appear to be bruised on the inside; I saw him out of my laundry room window just now, playing in the grass with his dog.

Sometimes, life makes your heart hurt.

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