I live in a classic Southern Californian suburb. This tract was built with small cul-de-sacs meandering off a small straight road, all sides lined with modest ranch homes of fair construction. I have lived here on and off (now 'on' forever) for about 30 years. In all that time the neighborhood has remained largely the same. The insane real estate boom lead some to believe their homes were worth over 600k, led some buyers to believe it was a good idea to get in. But now, post-housing apocalypse, we are largely untouched, a few homes on the road with signs for sale, but not too many.
Many of us have lived here for over 20 years, have watched each other from a slight distance and know faces, maybe a few names, not much else. We are on first name basis with a handful, I recall when the next door twins were born, the parents delight when we told them we were expecting our own. Now they start 8th grade, their twins, on the cusp of that wobbly area we call young adult. It is pleasantly dissociated area, none of the block party fireworks I remember from my first decade, but then they have banned fireworks in the home, so there is that working against us.
I noticed something odd a few days ago. As I turned into our street, I noted wide open windows at the corner home. A home once lived in by a mildly aging couple...not much older than my parents, I thought. Private people, never ones to be out and talking. My last conversation with them was when the boys were only infants, we were on a walk, we stopped to show them off and chat. They were thinking of selling, wanted to move on and retire. They had lost their daughter. She was in her early 20s, had suffered a heart problem at birth and I vaguely recall hearing the story of her needing to be medivac'd out. She had slight developmental delay, never moved out, smoked like a chimney, died early. Again, I never asked how, what, not even really when. That was the last time we talked, though I occasionally waved as we passed by.
So, the open windows. There were teams of cleaning people streaming in and out. No cars in the driveway, no faces I knew. All hired to clean and prep and then a day later a sign up, advertising the home for sale. I never even noticed them leaving. And I began to wonder. Could they have died in there, all alone? Was that why there were so many cleaning teams?
I remember a night years ago at a friend's home. We were tucking into our Friday beer ritual, ready to tie one on. We were sitting in the front room, looking our on her suburban street, the home just across in clear view. She mentioned they had not seen the elderly neighbor come for mail in a few days. Newspapers were strewn about....we started thinking there might be need for help. It might have been the beers, but I cannot be sure. We called the police station (had to call the cars in anyway to keep them overnight on the street). Mentioned the neighbor. Not too long after that a police car pulled up. And they found the person in the home, deceased. They came over to tell us, thanked us for the call. And we felt so weird. I do not even remember if it was a woman or a man.
I just came in from the driveway. I could not stop staring at the wide open windows, lights on showing off a pristine and clean but terribly outdated home. Appliances that look functional but unattractive. Curtains hung with care to frame old windows, crisp but ugly in their floral tones. I was fascinated by this unobstructed glimpse into a home I have never ever seen in 30 years. Never once have those blinds been drawn to bring in sun. And now it makes the home seem naked and vulnerable and over exposed, cheaply parading itself, despite lack of finery, hoping to attract someone to come and call it home.
I wonder what homes hold. I constantly strain my neck to look in and see, what color, what shape, what feel does this one hold, that one hold. I am curious, always so curious of the story to be told. It is likely I will never know. If they could be gone in a day without my attention being roused, it is likely I will never know. They lived there from the start too. They called that place home and birthed and lost a daughter there. Does it hold that? I wonder.
I write this as I wait for paint to dry. Literally. I decided to make a magnetic wall to serve as a gallery of sorts for the artwork I know will follow in the next years. I think magnetic paint is caustic and may have made me a little high. Maybe that is where this musing stems from. Or maybe it just does not combine well with a Saturday night beer ritual. Whatever reason, I cannot stop thinking about those brightly lit open windows. And wishing for a little more connection. And a little less distraction.