Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Good Neighbors / Bad Neighbors

I grew up in the idyllic hometown of Wenonah, NJ. I have such fond memories of my youth there. In the 70's,  two out of our three neighbors were very, very nice. We had Violet and Tom Conoway across the street. They were a sweet elderly couple that acted as surrogate grandparents to Adam, Sheryl, and I. Mrs. Conoway would bake us cookies. We would come into their little kitchen which always smelled so good and have cookies and milk. Adam and I would follow Mr. Conoway around in his yard and garage. When we were really young, Mom and Dad would sometimes arrange for us to stay there for a bit if they had errands to run and we couldn't come along. Just popping in would assure yourself of getting an oatmeal cookie or two!

On one side of our home were the Millers. Mr.and Mrs Miller were younger than the Conoways but about 10 years older than Mom and Dad. Mrs. Miller was sweet as well. They were the neighbors that my parents would talk to over the fence, have an occasional glass of wine with, exchange zucchini bread recipes, and hire their daughter Betty Jane to babysit us kids whenever needed.

On the other side ... well let's just say we did not get along with them. I will call them the Smiths. They were about the age of the Millers. They had one son: shy, introverted Billy. Billy never went out, was a mathematical genius, had pasty skin and thick glasses. Definitely not a sociable fellow. Billy was older than my sister and all momma's boy. He and his mother would be seen creepily throwing the ball underhand to each other for exercise when he was well into his teens.

Mrs. Smith and my mother did NOT get along. The Smith's yard was completely overgrown and unkempt. It was a tangle of bushes, vines, and foot high weeds. Mom complained that they were lowering the property values on the block. She continually warned us not to let our whiffleballs fly into their yard. We would sneak over and grab them and often got yelled at by Mrs. Smith for trespassing. She was notorious for keeping them. Or, she would bring them over and bang on the door, yelling at us again for being so irresponsible at 7 yrs of age. Uh ... okay. When she was nice, which wasn't often, she would bring us into her house to give us the ball and show us her pet box turtles. We went nervously. The odd thing about it was that her two pet turtles were kept in forced hibernation in the refrigerator crisper. I AM NOT KIDDING! Where most people kept their lettuce, she kept two box turtles. It was such a disturbing odd sight. There is just nothing more I can say about it! Just odd, just disturbing.

Then there was the Smith's electric organ. Mrs. Smith had an organ which she played at ungodly hours in the middle of the night. She would be playing Abba, Barry Manilow, the Eagles, and other 70's soft rocks hits. The organ was located up in the attic right next to window. My parents would call and call pleading with her to stop. She would for the evening but then start up again the next night. It was a nightmare.  After continued complaining, Mrs. Smith started to leave on the attic light all night just to antagonize us. It shown right into my bedroom window. Mom and Dad were undeterred and kept up the calling.  She finally stopped.

The funny thing was that Mr. Smith was such a kindly older man. He was nothing like the harpy of a wife we were subjected too. I think he knew he couldn't argue with his wife and would just give in to her craziness. Eventually, the Smiths moved to a home several blocks away. The home they moved to looked exactly like the one they moved from.

Soon, a new family moved in. We were so nervous as to whom we would "get". After all, you can pick your friends but can't pick your neighbors! Bob and Kay Croney moved in with Kay's daughter Tracy, and luckily, we got along so well with them, as neighbors should. Our parents had glasses of wine together, we would all talk across the fence, and had a BBQ every now and then. Tracy was in Adam's grade and if I remember correctly, they even went together to the prom or homecoming one year.  Our parents became friends and she became like a "sister across the yard." All was how it should be!

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