I took last Friday off of work. Pretended I was rich and that my life was filled with nothing but me-time. Drove an hour to an outlet mall and shopped in the sunshine. Relaxed. Listened to grown up music of my choosing while I drove. Made it back in time to fit in grocery shopping while The Nugget was still at daycare.
In short, I spent last Friday in complete and utter bliss.
Until I checked the mail. We had a letter from the Homeowner's Association. I sifted it out of the pile because I knew it wasn't time for dues yet, so I wondered what it could be. As it turns out, it was to notify us that one of our neighbors had filed a complaint about us. Because we have too many weeds in our yard. And if we don't take care of this then the HOA will hire someone to do it for us and then we will have to pay that fee and if we don't then we will have a lein put on our house.
The yard is mowed weekly by The Mister. He really enjoys yard work and takes pride in keeping it neat. He even mowes in a variety of patterns so that the lines show in our yard. I have never mowed a day in our marriage and can count on one hand the number of times I have mowed the grass in my life. If it were up to me, the grass would grow up to the windows. But he takes care of me like that.
Anyway, yes, this Spring has been a particularly hearty one here in the Midwest and we seem to have been overcome with dandelions. We had already put on an early Spring fertilizer and had, in fact, already purchased a late Spring fertilizer/dandelion killer to put on after another week or so when it had been enough time between applications. Had our neighbor spoken to us about the matter, he or she would have known this.
Had our neighbor spoken to us about the matter, he or she might also have know that April is a really difficult month for our family. That sometimes in April it is all I can do to try and keep breathing in and out. That my one and only son was born and died four years ago in April. That, no, the lawn is not the first thing or the fifth thing or the twenty-seventh thing on my mind, but it did make the list of shit we need to take care of at some point in our freaking lives.
What bothers me is not that these were false allegations. I had a boat load of weeds in the yard, it's true. But our home is not in a state of disrepair. We have potted flowers on the front porch which are well watered and pretty. There is no trash or unsightly junk in the yard. We clean up the dog poop from the back yard (okay, The Mister does, but still). We have a nice home. The weeds represented a CHANGE from the norm, not an addition to it. So it bothers me that the reporter didn't just stop over and say, "Hey, I noticed your yard could use a little help. Is everything okay?" Or even if they didn't want to go that far, maybe they could just have been direct and asked when we were going to take care of it.
I know, it's nobody's job to parent or police me. I just would like to think we all could have a bit more compassion for one another. If not compassion, at least some faith that we can and will do the right thing.
It's been a really disappointing experience for us to get this letter. Both of us grew up in the country. A dandelion was just part of the scenery. Now we live in this middle class suburbian neighborhood that mandates that you use chemicals to keep lawns looking perfect. Our neighbors are people who want our home to conform to their ideas or we will be on the outside. Suddenly, our home doesn't feel as homey anymore. I feel like if my dog barks at all or if a piece of trash blows into the yard an isn't immediately noticed and cleaned up then I will be reprimanded. I feel like Big Brother is watching me.
I think given the level that this disturbed us both, we might just up and sell and move to the country if we weren't upside down on this house (thank you, housing market). It just feels so gross to me and seems crystal clear all at once that, even though we love our house, maybe this is not the kind of place we want to raise our family. My idea of having a family in a neighborhood like this was to have community, not a police state.
Am I over-reacting? Maybe. But this issue struck me to the core. That stupid little letter seemed to put into question all of the values that we have and all of the values we are teaching our child. Be helpful. Be kind. Give people the benefit of the doubt. We don't always do it perfectly, but I think we do it better than that neighbor of ours.
Never fear, dear neighbor. The dandelions have been sentenced to death. The flower beds have been mulched. Our stepford home is back in conformity. But my defenses have locked into place with an almost audible "chink" of metal on metal. My fence is up, like it or not. I'm trying to pull at it, get it to come back down, keep my own values in the forefront. But I'm not there yet.
If that old saying about good fences making good neighbors is true, I just became about the best one anyone could hope for. For now.