I live on a tiny dead-end road that has about ten houses on it. For about nine months out of the year, this is what the house across the road from me looks like.
But then sometime in June, when the nearby summer stock theater opens, the house is full of young actors and singers who sit on the porch all night long (literally), and talk way way into the night, and the cars go in and out of the ridiculously narrow driveway pretty much nonstop, and sometimes someone will sit out there with a guitar and sing (one time my older daughter rushed outside to watch a small group of them sing a fairly good rendition of “Wagon Wheel” and I’m pretty sure she thought that being in your early 20s, sitting around singing on an old porch, was possibly the best thing you could ever hope to do in your life and I would say that, in some ways, she was right), or sometimes you might hear singing coming from inside that house, musical theater type of singing, which is what they’re doing five or six days a week.
We first moved here in the summer of 2013, so they were already here, quite unexpectedly, and now I consider the arrival of our musical theater neighbors each summer mostly something to look forward to, though I’ll admit that some nights, their loud nonstop conversations on the porch and the constant driving in and out of the driveway can get a little bit annoying. There are moments when I like the idea of them much more than the reality.
I have never really talked to any of them, but we do smile when we see each other. I can never tell if it’s the same people each year. I suspect some might be.
It’s amazing how lively our incredibly quiet road can get when the theater folks are here. For a couple days last summer, an unopened quart of milk lay on the road for about three days, people driving by it constantly, but no one willing to take ownership of it or do anything about it. Then one day it was just gone.
Which is exactly what happens every year at the end of August. It doesn’t happen all at once. Eventually you begin to see cars leaving the narrow driveway there and not returning. And then there’s just one guy sitting on the porch. And then the house is empty again, and you begin to notice just how rundown and gray it actually is. And our little road becomes quiet again.
And you almost can’t imagine what it’s like in the summer, when we have singing neighbors and cars lining the road. It’s very easy to forget, looking at that empty house across the road.
When we first moved here, one of our cats (now, sadly, no longer living) got lost. After an entire day of looking (and putting up signs along our street) my older daughter (age 12 at the time) was certain if we just sat outside and called to her, she would find her way back. I was not optimistic, but my daughter had a very strong connection to this cat that I trusted. So my daughter and I sat outside our house as the sun was going down and she called and called her name. At one point, we thought we heard a cat meow back. My daughter called out louder and the meow got louder. For a few minutes, they called back and forth to each other and I just sat there, astonished. My daughter could tell she was at our neighbors’ house and she walked across the road slowly and our cat emerged from under the porch. I actually had tears in my eyes as I watched my daughter bring our cat back across the road, a cat that you could almost never carry in your arms, but now, in her extreme relief, was allowing it.
As my daughter stood there calmly smiling, with the cat in her arms, and me both laughing and crying, I looked again at the house across the road and saw a young guy on the porch, who’d probably witnessed the whole thing. He waved to us and I waved back. That was the first time I felt grateful for that house, but certainly not the last.