When we first moved into our home my mother in law asked us who was the "bad neighbor" here, because there is always one. I studied the two homes I could easily see from my driveway. I strained my eyes to make out a third home through the trees. I considered the homes and their inhabitants before turning to my mother in law and replying, "Us".
In our five years here we have tried to compensate for our sloppy yard, screaming children, early morning loud exhaust pipes, odd hour mowing, senseless tractor rides, quad rides to nowhere, a garage stereo system that seems dedicated to pumping out exclusively old school rap , and annual illegal fireworks extravaganzas with an occasional helping hand. But on the eve of Thanksgiving I nearly negated the positive effect of a couple of driveway plowings and a lent cup of sugar.
I was walking through the family room past the bay window. I noticed a beautiful warm glow in the usual pitch darkness. "Ooh. Kids! The neighbors are having a bonfire! Lets go get a better look." I gathered with my children in the shadows of our yard and enjoyed the cheery display before us. Eventually Clara's sweet voice twinkled through the darkness, "Mom, isn't that a little big for a bonfire?" she asked. I hmmmed her as I remembered the summer Ariel and I burned the wooden remains of a mobile home in our side yard with a spectacular fire the flames of which reached twenty feet and wondered just how ticked off I would have been if anyone had come poking around and told me my fire was too big. I decided that even though I agreed with Clara, I wasn't going to be that neighbor. I was going to mind my own business: the roast in my oven. With a sigh, I broke up our merry scene, turned from the big, beautiful fire and made my way back inside.
A bit later, with a belly full of wholesome food and arms full of dirty table linens, I shuffled past the bay window again. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the glow had changed. There, in my neighbors yard where the joyous holiday fire had been, were a number of flashing lights belonging to fire trucks and assorted other rescue vehicles. The fire I dragged my babies outside to enjoy was in fact a horrific accident that could have flattened the two homes I can see from my driveway (it burned in the yard/wooded area between them) and taken the lives of the lovely families who live in them. I guess sometimes the glass is half empty and from now on I'm going to have to be the person who goes around asking if my neighbors are aware of the status of their glasses because my personal judgement stinks.