Tag: newneighbors

Charlie’s Room: A New Normal

“Mr. Carl’s house sold,” Charlie said one afternoon, the moment Isaac stepped through the door.

Marianne came out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a towel. “The for sale sign is gone, anyway. I wonder who bought it.”

“I wish we had Mr. Carl’s phone number at the care center so we could call and ask. Sending him a letter to ask will take too long.” Charlie frowned thoughtfully. “I guess we could drive there. It’s only a couple of hours away.”

Marianne laughed. “Not on a school night. I think we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Charlie frowned. “Okay. But if they start digging up his garden, we should ask for the rhubarb. And maybe his blueberry bushes. Those are really nice, too.”

“But where would we put the blueberries? We don’t really get enough sun in the corner opposite the garden.” Marianne bunched up the towel into one hand.

“Out front. Do we really need all those irises?” Charlie darted toward the front door, and Isaac stepped out of the way.

“We could move the irises to the front of the house and line the driveway with the bushes,” Marianne said, following him outside. “Why wait? We could go to the garden center this weekend.”

“Mr. Carl’s bushes are better than anything at the garden center,” Charlie said.

“Even with the stress of transplanting them?”

The conversation continued off and on for the next week. And one day, when they were out on a walk, they saw a car parked in front of Mr. Carl’s old house. They lingered on the sidewalk for a moment, uncertain whether it was the new neighbors. Just then, an older couple came around the corner of the house.

They weren’t as old as Mr. Carl, but they were probably a little too old to have kids Charlie’s age. Charlie decided to ask, just in case. “Are you moving into Mr. Carl’s old house? Do you have any kids my age?”

“Was this Mr. Carl’s house? I can tell he was a good gardener. I’m Mrs. Smith.” Mrs. Smith held out her hand and Charlie grinned and shook it.

“I’m Charlie,” Charlie said. “This is my mom and dad.”

“I’m Mr. Smith,” he held out his hand too and Charlie shook it. Then he shook hands with Marianne and Isaac. “We have kids, but they’re all grown up now, so we needed a smaller house.”

“You’re going to keep the garden, right?” Charlie asked.

“Of course we are,” Mrs. Smith said. “We love gardens.”

“So do we,” Marianne said. “Our house is right behind this one. We loved to talk about gardens over the fence with Mr. Carl.”

“That sounds lovely.” Mrs. Smith smiled. “I’m sure I’ll need advice on how to keep these plants healthy. I’ve only ever grown roses. Maybe once we’re all moved in, you can come over for cookies and help me develop a plan for the garden.”

That evening, Marianne and Charlie bought blueberry bushes and a rhubarb plant at the garden center. It took longer to move the irises than they expected, but they were happy with the new additions. They wrote to Mr. Carl and asked his advice on how to care for them.

A few weeks later, they helped the Smiths with their garden over cookies. It didn’t take long for the Smiths to settle into the neighborhood. Mrs. Smith and Marianne traded gardening tips and cookie recipes, and Isaac and Mr. Smith discussed tools and repairs. It almost seemed like they’d been neighbors for years instead of months.

“I feel kind of guilty for replacing Mr. Carl so quickly,” Charlie said one afternoon while they played a board game. “I feel like I’m not being a good friend.”

“I don’t think the Smiths are replacing Mr. Carl,” Marianne said, moving her piece to a green square. “They are our new gardening friends, but it’s not the same at all.”

Isaac drew a card and frowned. Back to the gumdrop mountains? “Part of life is change. Things don’t stay the same. We’re always living with a new normal. You keep getting taller and seeing things from a new angle. The seasons change from spring to summer. Gas just keeps getting more expensive. If we refused to acknowledge the new normal, it would be there all the same. Our lives would just be harder.”

Charlie drew a card and grinned. He moved his piece forward two yellow spaces. Then he frowned. “But wouldn’t Mr. Carl feel bad that we got new gardening friends?”

“But they aren’t replacing Mr. Carl really,” Marianne pointed out. “We still write him letters about our garden and ask him for advice. We just have more gardening friends.”

“We could share Mr. Carl’s address and they could write him too. Then we’d all have more gardening friends.” Charlie smiled.

“That’s a great idea.” Marianne drew a red and moved her piece.

“The new normal is pretty nice,” Charlie said. “We’re pretty lucky, aren’t we?”

Isaac drew a yellow and sighed. Stuck. Ah well. Marianne and Charlie laughed.

“Well, maybe not always lucky,” Charlie said. “But mostly.”

“I agree with that,” Isaac said.

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.”

Glass of water, half full