My husband and I love making stuff up. We aren’t quite normal. We repeat this nonsense so often that it becomes a part of our story. Soon, we are not even sure if it is not true.
Take this morning, a perfectly agreeable Saturday morning. We slept in, a lovely bonus sleep time with no alarm clock. The cat slept between us, and it was just chilly enough to enjoy a crumpled blanket over my face.
From next door, the house my husband calls “The Old Thompson Place,” we heard much noise, and I got out of bed to investigate. Someone was moving in.
How disrespectful at this hour, the early side of 10 a.m.? Who moves into a house at such an ungodly hour on a Saturday morning?
There was a colossal U-Haul parked in the driveway next to one of those shipping containers MSNBC pundit Ed Schulz points at in his “Lean Forward” commercial. Strangers wandered in and out of the house.
My first thought was so unselfish.
“Where will we park our cars next week when our driveway gets resurfaced?”
My heart filled with love and a welcoming grace towards our new neighbors.
My husband — also filled with the spirit of the Welcome Wagon — and I discussed potential rules and regulations for our new neighbors, who dared to wake us up.
How will we share these rules with them? Perhaps a cake with a note cooked inside, wrapped in foil? Maybe I’ll wear a tin-foil hat when I deliver the list.
1. No irritating yappy dogs. Or if they have a dog, it must be mute and able to use a cat box.
2. No children. If they have children, they must be perennially 11 years old and fluent in Suzuki violin, preferably Brahms. Absolutely no drums or large horns.
3. The new neighbors must provide lawn care on our schedule. The neighbors must never mow more often than every 10 days, and only between 4 and 5 p.m. on Mondays when we are not home. The prior resident used an extremely large tractor with headlights and mowed night or day, summer, winter or fall. He once mowed on Christmas Eve.
After we established the rules, my husband suggested that I take over “a nice hot oven meal.” We both laughed uproariously at that one. He’s quite the joker!
It was still early, only 11 a.m. now, so we went out for breakfast. Still grumpy from the early awakening, I was a little hostile that morning. As we left home I was yelling at my husband over some real or imagined slight. Trying to make me laugh, he started talking in a strange accent as if he imitated our new neighbors.
“Why, looka there. She’s yailin at him,” my husband said, pretending he was our new neighbor.
I have no idea why he felt our new neighbors talked like extras from “Deliverance” or just walked out of Harper Lee’s home church in Alabama, but that’s what he said and how he said it.
I decided to play along. Our new neighbors needed names, names we gave them. If we were going to befriend them with a hot oven meal and our foil wrapped note of rules, they needed names.
“Feudalee,” I said, for the wife. “She was named after her great-grandfather, Confederate General Feudal Lee Brown.”
“Bertram for the man,” my husband said.
We laughed about that as he backed the car out of the garage. Recovering from our laughter, we realized one bitter truth. We had new neighbors, and they might expect us to speak to them.
— Amy McVay Abbott
Amy McVay Abbott is an Indiana journalist whose column “The Raven Lunatic” runs in a dozen newspapers and magazines. This piece is excerpted from her new book, A Piece of Her Mind. She learned about writing essays from her late mother’s collection of Erma books.