Charlie’s Room: New Neighbors
“The house behind ours is for sale,” Marianne said one evening at dinner.
“It is? But what about Mr. Carl?” Isaac was surprised. Mr. Carl had lived in the neighborhood longer than anyone. Isaac had many late afternoon chats with him over the fence about what the neighborhood used to look like when Mr. Carl was younger and most of the land was beet fields.
He had the nicest garden. Marianne and Charlie liked to peek through the fence in the spring to see his progress. They often timed when to plant things by when they started to appear in Mr. Carl’s garden.
“Mr. Carl is going to live in a care home. His daughter was there this afternoon. She said he wasn’t doing so well.” Marianne looked sad.
“He didn’t look sick last time we saw him,” Charlie said.
“Sometimes, when people are older, these things can come on kind of suddenly,” Marianne said carefully. “Would you like to see if we can visit him in his care home? Maybe we can send him cards, too.”
“Do you think it would make him sad to send him pictures of our garden?” Charlie asked.
“I don’t think so,” Marianne poured more water into Charlie’s glass. “Maybe we can ask him when to plant things.”
Charlie dropped his fork. “I have a great idea. We can buy Mr. Carl’s house. Then we’d have his garden. It’s the most amazing garden ever, and it would be all ours.”
Isaac smiled. “We’d also have an extra house. What would we do with an extra house?”
“I don’t know.” Charlie thought for a moment. “We could make it into a dinosaur museum.”
“That would be pretty neat.” Isaac took a bite of salad and chewed thoughtfully. “But buying a house costs a lot of money.”
“How much? I still have money I saved from Christmas, and my birthday is coming up soon.” Charlie jumped up. “I could get my bank and we could count it. I think it’s a lot of money.”
“Sit down.” Marianne patted the back of Charlie’s chair and he sat. “Charlie, a house costs so much money that we still haven’t finished paying for ours.”
“We could trade houses,” Charlie said at once.
Isaac nodded. “That’s a great idea. But it would be difficult to do. Usually, you have to sell your own house before you can buy a new one. That takes a while. And they don’t usually let people start museums in neighborhoods. They like to keep them downtown where there’s more parking.”
Charlie frowned. “But what if the people who buy Mr. Carl’s house don’t like gardens? What if they decide to take out the garden and turn the backyard into just grass and let all the dandelions grow wherever they want?”
“It would be their house, and they could do that,” Marianne said.
“But it wouldn’t be fair,” Charlie said. “Mr. Carl put so much work into his garden.”
Isaac patted Charlie’s back. “Maybe the people who move in love gardens. Maybe that will be why they buy the house. Or maybe they will be new to gardens and need some help from experts like you and your mom.”
Charlie took a deep breath. “Do you think so? And we can help them like Mr. Carl helped us?”
“Just like that.” Isaac smiled. “They will be new to the neighborhood, and even if they don’t need help with their garden, maybe they will have other things we can help with.”
“Like when Sam was new to our school and Thomas and I sat with him at lunch and showed him where the park was after school.” Charlie sat up straighter. “It might not be bad to have new neighbors. Maybe there will be someone my age who likes dinosaurs and wants to be in the dinosaur club.”
“That’s right,” Isaac said. “Let’s not borrow trouble.”
Charlie looked confused. “What does that mean?”
“The future hasn’t happened yet. Worrying about bad things that might happen in the future that we can’t do anything about is like borrowing trouble from the future just so we can worry about it in advance. If there’s nothing we can do about it, we might as well wait to worry about it when it actually happens. A lot of the time, the bad things we think might happen don’t even happen at all. Then we have nothing to worry about. So, why borrow something you might not need?” Isaac took a bite of salad.
Charlie shook his head. “I still don’t get it.”
Marianne laughed. “It’s just a saying.”
“Like the glass half full thing?” Charlie held up his glass of water.
“Just like that.” Marianne took a few sips from her water glass and held it up. “Look, mine’s half full now.”
“Mine, too.” Charlie took a few more sips and laughed. “Now it’s not. Is it a third full or a fourth?”
“Mine’s empty,” Isaac said sadly, looking at his glass.
“No, it’s just full of potential,” Marianne said, and she filled his glass with water.
“Just like the neighbor’s house.” Charlie held out his water glass to be filled again. “It’s too bad we can’t buy all the houses in the neighborhood. Then we can connect them all and it would be like living in a giant castle.”
Marianne laughed. “What would we do with all that space?”
Charlie thought for a moment. “I guess we could invite all our neighbors to come back and live in our castle.”
Isaac smiled. “I like that idea. Let’s do that, but not connect the houses. That way there’s more room for gardens.”
“But then it’s just the way the neighborhood is already,” Charlie said.
“Mostly full?” Isaac asked.
“Once someone moves into Mr. Carl’s house, it will be full again,” Charlie said. He looked at his water glass. “I guess that’s pretty good after all.”