Our little circular enclave stood out as one of the few places left in our university town where the college students lived in the small post-World War II Sears catalog style homes alongside some elderly couples and a few families with very young kids. For in spite of our college city being relatively small, urban sprawl was in vogue. And people were eagerly moving across the river to build bigger and grander homes or indulge in the amenities featured in the newly built apartment communities. With the fashion for the local residents being to complain about the drinking parties and wild nature of these football-crazed college students.
In our own enclave, the main complaint we had about these collegiate neighbors of ours, was the one guy who would practice his loud drum routine every day right during the middle of the afternoon. Sometimes he was right on the beat, yet most of the time, his rhythm was atrociously off. With him living right beside the elderly couple who rarely left their home - but were somehow always in the know when it came to the happenings in our neighborhood - one day my mother and I stopped by to ask them about their drum beating neighbor.
“What drum?” they asked us with blank looks coming out of their eyes. Leaving us to wonder if they were purposely being evasive out of some kind of neighborly loyalty. After all, this college boy’s drum routine had been reluctantly memorized by the entire neighborhood. But after prodding them some more, my mother and I realized that they weren’t being polite, they were actually that hard of hearing. Resulting in them not having a clue as to what drum we were referring to.
On another afternoon, my mother and I went shopping for shoes. We ended up in one of the nicer retail stores in the mall and went through the usual hassle of trying on shoes, sorting through the boxes to make sure we hadn’t misplaced one of the pairs, and then grimacing at the prices of even the less expensive footwear we were selecting. Sensing our dismay over the prices of the shoes, our tall and well dressed shoe salesman starting ringing up the items. Quickly informing us that “I can give you the good neighbor discount.”
Now it was our turn to feel blank looks overtake our eyes. For while we certainly appreciated his generous offer, we couldn’t fathom why he was referring to us as neighbors. Noticing our confusion, the friendly shoe salesman looked at my mother and me and said “Y’all live in the circle, right?” To which we nodded in affirmation. And our good neighbor discounts were applied, much to our unexpected delight.
We soon learned that our shoe salesman neighbor was half-Brazilian, but wholly Southern. With a penchant for hunting and other outdoorsman activities. And possessed of an uncanny ability to convince even a 15,000 pound circus elephant to forego her monthly peanut allowance. All in order to purchase a pair of high-end patent leather stiletto heels that she would never be able to wear. But could have the pleasure of gazing upon fondly from afar. He had played college level baseball before transferring to the university and was very devoted to his majorette girlfriend. However, when he learned that I spoke Spanish, the prankster in him decided to play the part of matchmaker between his buddy who was majoring in Spanish and me.
The problem with his cupid-like endeavors, was that he rarely let the truth interfere with his machinations. Resulting in me talking about my favorite Irish music groups to his friend, who spent the entire time trying to ascertain if I had confused him with an unknown twin or was in dire need of some serious medical attention. For contrary to what our shoe salesman neighbor had told me, his Spanish major friend wasn’t a connoisseur of “Celtic Woman”. However, unable to remain upset at him and his pals for very long, come Christmas Time we gave them a plate full of my mother’s tasty homemade oatmeal cookies.
With our house being on the end of the cul-de-sac, right alongside one of the main thoroughfares from the main boulevard to the university campus, our lawn was a conspicuous one. And, most of the time, my mother and I didn’t worry about mowing the grass. Due to our neighbor behind us kindly mowing it while riding on his lawnmower and trimming his own yard. However, once the city began placing more restrictions on dog owners, his wife decided she preferred a life out in the country where she could have her furry friends at leisure. Leaving us with plenty of grass in the yard and me being too frightened to mow the lawn for fear it would fall back on me and chop off all of my fingers.
Then one day, with the sun shining on a beautiful breezy afternoon, my mother and I decided to partake of the lovely climate by taking a long stroll around the block. In one of those rare moments where for some inexplicable reason everybody instantly gets along, we met two college boys who were eager to make acquaintances among their new neighbors. One had served in the military and the other would later be one of my mother’s Spanish students. Despite their youthful age, they had some insight into international affairs, which fascinated us. And after a while, they invited us to tour their home. Since we all were getting along so well, when my mother looked at me to see what I thought about their offer, I immediately agreed that we should take a look at their new environs.
Their house was impressively large and after bidding our farewells at the conclusion of our tour, my mother came home a few days later with the news that she had met their girlfriends. Being very pleased by how nice they all seemed; when Halloween rolled around we stopped by to see their costumes and show them ours. With us stopping by to say hello and discuss world affairs with them periodically after that.
Then all of a sudden I came home and I blinked my eyes. Something was different about our house and I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. It was looking picturesque with the flowers blooming and everything appearing so neat and tidy. Almost too neat and tidy. And after mulling over it for a while, it dawned on me . . . the lawn. It was freshly mowed and looking superb. My mother noticed it too. However, there was no clue as to who had done this unexpected kindness. We looked around for a note, a bill, or anything that would give us a hint as to the identity of the persons who had so graciously mowed our lawn.
Putting our two heads together, after some time, my mother and I finally realized it was the two college boys. Feeling so happy at their unexpected generosity, we took some of our caramel popcorn and other treats over to their house. Thanking the one who was there, as profusely as we could.
After a couple of years, we moved to the bigger metropolis about an hour away. Where our upstairs newlywed neighbors managed to shake the entire apartment building like a giant thunder clap while serenading us with the strains of their honeymoon. It was a far cry from our World War II era Sears catalog homes. And we had to bite our tongues a few weeks later when they announced to us that they were expecting. Perhaps, we thought to ourselves, we were overdoing it in our college town back home. And the college boys were good neighbors, after all.