Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Here in the Commune

In 1970, when everyone else my age was still scraping the mud off their ankles from Woodstock
and being way cool with alternate lifestyles, I was delivering my first born and then following my husband from Fort Benning to Fort Gordon to Fort Monmouth to Fort Ord. We were the antithesis of cool. We didn’t even get a taste of communal living by being housed on base, although we did live in a succession of less and less creepy apartments.

          Upon discharge, and after the trek back to Massachusetts, we bought our first house, where if one of the kids decided to bounce a tennis ball incessantly against his bedroom wall, he was only shredding the nerves of immediate family, not some captive audience next door.         

Then we moved outside of the city, onto a dead-end street with only two other homes. With an acre of woods in back of our house I can wander around au natural in my backyard if the spirit moves me. Fortunately for the sensibilities of our deer and wild turkey population, I’ve never had the urge to do so. Our neighbors are the best kind – there when you need them, invisible when you don’t.

          I thought of this today here in Florida as I stepped out of the bathroom in my underwear just as a man on a lawnmower chugged by our bedroom window, twenty feet away. I keep forgetting that I’m not back home in the woods, where the only reason to close the curtains is to prevent the relentlessly perky June sun from lasering my eyelids at 6:30 a.m.

          I’d been up for a while, since whoever is upstairs from us begins every day by dragging what must be cast-iron chairs back and forth promptly at 6:58 every morning. Since this is followed by rapid footsteps back and forth, my profiling skills tell me the owner of those feet is likely younger than the typical Florida demographic of 65 and older. Then there’s the bouncebouncebounce-bounce  bounce     bounce        bounce  sound that I hear periodically. Game of fetch? Rubber ball? And why don’t I hear skittering feet?

          Here in our communal bunker of cement and steel, at least other sounds never drift over or down from the neighbors – no televisions, music, or conversations – but anything remotely percussive is shared by all. 

          By the way, the lawnmower and its rider passed, and I dodged into a dark corner and threw on a robe. With curlers in my hair as a feeble defense against the day’s impending humidity, I went out to the lanai (translation, porch) to paint my toenails. 
     I had just folded myself into a modified lotus position, giving me access to my left foot, when I looked up to see a man in a straw hat weedwhacking the edges outside of our screen, an arm’s length away.   


  1. People are the aspect of communal living which bothers me most. By a long way.

  2. Ah, I feel your pain of exposure. In rural Florida, I could walk naked on my porch and no one could see me as I was in the middle of 5 acres surrounded by woods. When I first moved here I forgot and opened my front door to let the dog out while in my undies and then realized I was basically standing in full view of a busy highway. Yikes. Trust me, you will quickly learn the art of cover up.

  3. Ah yes, it is different. We seldom hear adult feet but hear every step a small child makes. Must be the way they put their feet to the floor. It is a bit disconcerting to see that green you though was a hedge rise up and there you are in the window in your undies. He's actually just trimming the hedge. Thursdays are lawnmower day, count on it. No windows on one side of our space took some getting used to. Eventually it all falls into place.

  4. You've got all the luck. a great place to live and a big audience. Just think, you'll be famous.

  5. I'm living that close to people too, I'm not entirely happy about it, but it's good to know someone at least will hear if I need to call for help. And we don't have big picture windows to see the gardeners through.

  6. LOL!!! Did you move voluntarily or were you somehow coerced? I've tried for years to flee condo life but now, it's too late as that is the only reasonable alternative for my situation...if it's any consolation, I too have stunned a lawn jockey or two...

    1. No coercion - but also no real problem since this will be a second home and so has all the benefits of being both novel and temporary. Plus, we've hit the jackpot with our next door neighbor.

  7. I hope you like people. I don't like curtains, have never had them. mini-blinds in the bedroom and front window in the city. I figured if my neighbors didn't want to see me walking naked in my house, they could close their curtains. out here in the country with a half acre on either side of me and empty houses on the other sides of the empty lots and a field behind me and a covering of foliage on the street side if anyone wants to see me walk around naked in the house they will have to come right up to the window.

  8. I will probably have to move to the city eventually. I am a loner and it is dangerous for a reclusive old lady to live alone in the woods. Hubby argues they will have to carry him out feet first. I am a realist and know that time is cruel for us all. But I do not like living close to strangers or brief acquaintences!


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