Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Welcome to my Neighborhood

It's getting to be that time of the year when we get a little nervous around here. Graduations and the 4th of July mean firecrackers, and the sudden explosions make us a bit jumpy. Back when I was telling you this little story, I mentioned my husband sometimes gets just a tad alarmed by sudden loud noises, and I'll tell you why.

We live in a working class neighborhood. Our home was our "starter house," the first--and only--one we've bought. Our plan was to move to a nicer, larger house once the kids were out of elementary school, but the real estate market was in a slump, and although we had the house on the market for the better part of two years, it never did sell, so we decided to stay here until our kids graduated from high school. For several reasons, once that happened, we just decided to stay put for the time being. So here we still are, 21 years later.

Most of us in this neighborhood are fairly quiet. Although none of us has much money to spare, we own our homes and maintain them fairly well. For the most part, we are law-abiding citizens. Occasionally, though, we get renters in the neighborhood who seem to live to a different standard. The kids run around in the street and glare angrily at any cars that dare interrupt their games. The parents argue with each other and scream at their kids--sometimes outside in the front yard or in the house with all the windows open. For whatever odd reason, some put old couches in their garages and sit out there all night long with the garage doors open, smoking and drinking. I could go on and on, but I'm sure you recognize the type.

The house above is situated across the street from ours and slightly to the right. It has been a rental property for the past ten to fifteen years, and believe me, we've had our share of troublesome neighbors. A new family moved in a few months ago--husband, wife, and two kids, I believe. So far, they seem to fit right into our neighborhood. They keep the yard neat, they are reasonably quiet, and although they have a couple kids, we don't see them running wild in the yard and street. Thank goodness!

Before that, there was a single mom with several kids and a steady parade of men living there for short periods of time. Last year, we purchased new living room furniture, and the mom asked if they could have our old couch and recliner because they didn't have much. Sure, we said, and the woman sent her kids over to move the old furniture across the street and into the garage, so they could sit out there all night long with the door open, smoking, drinking, and arguing. But really, all in all, that family was an improvement over the one before.

The family before consisted of another single mom with a bunch of kids and a steady parade of men living there for short periods of time. Sound familiar? They actually lived in the house for quite a few years, and when they first moved in, the kids were cute and little and the mom was friendly with the neighbors. They took reasonably good care of the house, and other than the occasional yelling and screaming, they didn't present much of a problem. As the kids grew into teenagers and the cars outside multiplied, living across the street from this family became a bit difficult to say the least. Somehow the woman had gotten ahold of a large camping trailer. Although there was a cement pad on the side of the house where she could park it, it seemed to end up parked in front of our house much of the time. The several other cars owned by people living in the house meant that parking on the street anywhere near our house was often difficult, and we had two teenagers with their own cars as well. Again, as the kids across the street grew, the garage was turned into a family room, and much of the time, there were several teens and their friends hanging out in the garage and yard making a fair amount of noise.

One particular evening about two years ago, my husband and I were sitting in the living room, watching TV. My son had come home with a new girlfriend, and they were in his room, also watching TV. Loud voices from these neighbors across the street distracted us from whatever we were watching, and the voices grew louder. I turned to look out the window but it was starting to get dark, and it was difficult to see what was going on. My husband got up from his recliner and went to the front door and out onto the porch in time to see the mom hurrying down the street, yelling to her kids to get in the house. Before we could make sense of all the commotion, a car drove slowly down the street, and as it passed from our right to our left, gun fire erupted.

Somewhat belatedly, I dove for the floor, worried all the time about my husband who was standing out on the porch. I learned later that several of the neighbors had also come outside to see what all the yelling was about, and they called 9-1-1. The incident, of course, was over in seconds.

We learned a bit later that the shots did not come from the passing car but rather were directed AT the car by one of the kids either living at or visiting the house across the street. No one was hit by the bullets, thank God, but our neighbors to our left had two bullet holes in their house and, in a somewhat ironic twist, the idiot with the gun shot holes in the mom's van that was parked in their driveway.

Just after the shooting, having heard all the commotion, my son came out of his room to see what was happening. The poor girlfriend he had brought home got hysterical and we never did see her again.

I thought I was okay until I went to work the next day and burst into tears as I was telling my boss what had happened. For the next hour, I couldn't seem to stop crying, so the office manager suggested I take the day off.

My husband seemed less emotional about the experience. To him, it seemed like a good story to tell his friends and co-workers. We all handle things differently, and maybe telling the story over and over was his way of working through his emotions. But he still jumps at firecrackers and other loud, sudden noises.

The police never did find the gun, because following the shooting, some of the kids took off and presumably took the gun with them. My husband was a witness, having seen one of the kids raise the gun and fire, but he couldn't identify the shooter because it was fairly dark. Although he gave a statement to the police and another to the district attorney prosecuting the case, they must have pled out or dismissed the charges because my husband never did have to testify in court.

After the shooting, the neighbors met to discuss what could be done to get this woman and her family out of the neighborhood. We spoke with the police, who suggested we call them any time we saw anything slightly suspicious going on. Finally, though, the neighbors on the other side of this rental filed a lawsuit against the owner of the home, and that seemed to be the final straw. Within a few months, the family moved out.

With summer coming, I hope the new renters continue to be model neighbors. And I hope there aren't too many firecrackers between now and the 4th of July!


Anonymous said...

Ohmigosh... that is some story! How terrifying. I hope your fourth of July goes smoothly!! ^_^

MichelleB said...

Kim! You have the best stories! Well, they're not always happy, but they're always great. I hope these neighbors are good ones.

Unknown said...

Yikes!!! This is another reason I love not having neighbors. I hope you have a quiet summer!!

Kairle Oaks said...

Thanks for letting me sleep in the bedroom at the back of the house when I came to visit! LOL!!!

We actually witnessed a drive by shooting when we lived in CA. We were coming out of a movie theater located inside the mall. Definitely an experience that I will never forget!

Anonymous said...

Kim, there is just too much of that shooting going on, not just in CA but everywhere. Glad that your DH and you were not injured. I've been a renter and always tried to treat the place like it belonged to me, too bad others give renters a bad name. Far as bad kids, I didn't have any because I made them behave and have respect. Today I'd be in prison for abuse.

Michele said...

Wow Kim - you have the most amazing stories!! I'm glad to hear that you got new neighbours. Yikes - the house beside me is for sale. I was hoping a young family would buy it but maybe I should wish for grandma and grandpa!

Tracey @ozcountryquiltingmum said...

That would be my hope as well...once again, my poor old post today about life on the farm is looking very tame....but at least no-one's ever shot at my house!! Tracey

QuiltingFitzy said...

In San Jose we had who we called "The Greatful Dead" living 2 doors down. Tons of junk in their yard, including a hot tub and toilet planters.


Thankfully, the buyer didn't notice or didn't care and we sold in 4 days, lol.

We've now moved into a VERY strict HOA regulated neighborhood and I thank my lucky stars every day.

Maybe get to know the new people? Could it help to foster a good relationship?

atet said...

Ouch! Neighbors can be an iffy thing. Luckily for us we live in a pretty peaceful neighborhood. A few pre-teen boys who like to be "funny" and the crtochety old man who lives on my street who likes to call the police if children ride their bikes, but no gunshots. Oh, did I mention the police officer who lives across the way?

The Chicken Lady said...

Wow, what a story! I hope the new family is great. Maybe you and your other neighbors could get together and buy the house, and use it as a community clubhouse! :)