The last thing I see as I ieave my driveway each day is my neighbor’s backyard. Well, it’s more complicated than that…
The people who reside next to me, once occupied the house I now live in. They owned it, but got foreclosed on. Because I live in the house they once owned, they’ve shunned me for the last six years. They avoid eye contact, don’t reciprocate when I offer a hello, and have pretended they don’t speak English when I’ve attempted to speak with them.
The thing is, they don’t live in the house next-door. They live in the backyard next-door. When they were foreclosed on seven years ago, and with no place else to go, the elderly woman who lives in the house next-door agreed to let them set up temporary shelters in her backyard.
They are a family of five — a mother and father, probably in their mid-50s, and their two adult children, a daughter and a son, who look to be in their mid-20s. The daughter has a toddler who’s maybe 3-years-old.
The family lives in windowless plywood shacks, roughly 12’x12’. Each hut has electricity run by extension cords from the main house. The yard itself has been reduced to dirt, though they do have several gardens of vegetables, fruit trees, and even some flowers decorating the periphery. There’s a fence that divides their yard space from the main house. So far as I can tell, this is a business agreement and they don’t intermingle with the lady who owns the property and lives in the main house. They simply rent her backyard.
The mom and dad share one shack, with the two adult children each having their own. In-between the structures, in the central part of the yard, are a couple of easy-ups they use for common living spaces. Under one easy-up are lounge chairs and end tables. Under the other is a family-size picnic table where they dine. Behind the living spaces and towering over the dirt is a freestanding refrigerator, also powered by extension cord. Beside it is a gas powered grill — with side burners. This is their kitchen.
The patriarch is independently employed in landscape maintenance. He works seven days per week, generally leaves about 5am, and returns about 3pm. His wife stays home, tends the gardens and her toddler grandson, and spends much of her day preparing the evening meal. The two adult children also leave early for jobs in town, and return in mid-afternoon also.
At home, they seem to spend most of their non-sleeping time in the common areas under the easy-ups, where they cook, listen to traditional Mexican music from a boom-box, and play with the lone grandchild. When they’re not working, they’re together most of the time. I overhear a lot of conversation, laughter, and music.
I admire it — and don’t mind saying I’m secretly jealous. It’s a simple life, not complicated. From a distance, it’s all so charming. They aren’t hung up on granite countertops, 80-inch wall-mounted televisions, and the latest heat resonating cookware. This is the epitome of functional minimalism. Each day as I roll my bike past the gate that secures them, I think to myself…
I could do that — I could totally live like that. And I mean it — I even aspire to it.
I admire a man who wakes up early, works long days, and does so seven days per week. I admire the mom who stays home all day, tending the garden and preparing the evening meal. I admire that, despite they each have an improvised bungalow they could hide away in, they spend their time outdoors conversing, laughing, and listening to music. They even host social gatherings on occasion, where a dozen people or more show up with food, drink, and occasionally play live music.
And I’ll be so bold as to say this…
If more of us live like that — lived minimally, spent our free time together as generationally undivided families, and conversed more, the world might be a better place. I don’t want to suggest what they have is utopia or that they even aspired to be were they are. Again, they once lived in the house I’m in now, with liberty and hardwood floors for all. But they seem at home in their circumstance and surroundings and not forlorn. They truly don’t seem to want for more.
If I’m being honest, I kind of don’t like the people next-door. I want to like them, but they’ve been rude to me, ignored me, and even hijacked my garden hose once to fill their water tanks. It’s hard to like somebody who treats me poorly — all for the crime of living in the house they couldn’t hold onto. Still, I’ll keep waving to them, smiling at them, and saying hello — even if ignored. And as I smile my neighborly smile, I have no idea if they can see through me — if they know I’m secretly jealous of the life that they live.
I’m certain I’ve offended more than a few with this viewpoint, even some close friends and family members. This wasn’t my desire and I hope you’ll forgive me. I just never bought into the dream — not completely anyway. Contrary to my father, good enough has always been good enough for me. If we all lived a little more minimally, even a little bit, I just think that would be nice.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This week by the numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 5
Mph Avg: 15.4
Seat Time: 8 hours 35 minutes
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there’s this from Otis Gibbs. Enjoy…