Self-Segregating?: Part 1
Do you know the feeling of when you’re convinced that you have found the perfect place to set up camp? The emotions that build up while driving to the location accompanied by a sweet surge of joy that bubbles up? You hop out of the car in that familiar way which is part leg stretch, part glute squeeze.
The trees are casting the right amount of shade, or perhaps, they create a surrounded clearing. There aren’t too many rocks underfoot and you can eyeball the exact space you wish to use for food prep and another section for when “nature” calls.
An involuntary exhale, laced with a smidgeon of self gratitude grunting, slowly escapes your body.
All of your pre-planning legwork was flawless. You’re aware of the kind of animals you might encounter. You’ve calculated the costs for all the fees and completed a look ahead on weather conditions for the duration of your stay. You cannot wait to unload and begin the ceremony of the tent set up.
You hear footsteps approaching…
“Hey! I wanted to come over and say hi. We are camping just across the field over there.” (the nice stranger motions with a thumb)
“Hello! Thanks so much! It’s beautiful here, right?!” you say.
“It’s amaze-balls. I love it here. We’ve been visiting now for 8 or more years. How did you find us?” A frozen smile inquires.
So goes the account of how I was welcomed to my new suburban neighborhood. I dressed it up in a camping metaphor for levity, but the dialogue exchanged was authentic. My new neighbors, joined in pairs, drifted across the street to welcome me and ask at the same time how I’d found them. Not the neighborhood, but… them. My response was dripping with naiveté and sincerity “Have we met? Well, we just used a realtor and asked them to search for houses in master planned communities.”
I sincerely thought that perhaps they worked in my same school district and somehow I had missed that we’d met before.
It could happen.
I worked in a very large district. And the truth was that we did use a realtor. But doesn’t everyone who is looking for a home find it that way? Was this neighborhood a shrouded secret? Or, in a bubble?
My subconscious kept record of the incident and my heart moved on in excitement to get to Lowe’s. That was 2013. By the time election season 2020 arrived, it all came rushing back.
Like a tsunami.
Trump flags, American Flags and election signs oh my!
By November, I have to admit, I was not keeping track of battleground state statuses. So, surprised by an unexpected knock on the door and armed with a partial expectation of encountering a Schwan’s meat sales person, I opened the door with a full swing. Standing on my porch in denim on denim with a MAGA hat, was a campaigner with free yard signs. One of the cars in our driveway has a disabled vet license plate, so, the campaigner offered the “Veterans for Trump” sign first. I gave an easy “no thank you” with a smile, he returned the smile, and I closed the door. I am not a fan of yard paper blocking my begonias.
Then the morning of January 7th happened.
I took an early morning walk around my neighborhood, and for the first time since I’d lived there, I wished I’d owned a weapon. Not a .22, pink, lady pistol that they advertise in the local Academy Sports and Outdoors flyer.
I wanted a glock.
An overwhelming desire to get as much protection as possible overtook my well placed, “you live in the suburbs now” mentality. Not only had the yard signs remained for many of my neighbors after the election was finished, but they remained in tact and prominently displayed after the insurrection at the Capitol. For some homes, they remained well into March.
Blame it on too much social media, news media or dog park talk. I was certifiably scared. I made it through election night worried that my lack of a Trump sign on the grass made us a target for vandalism. My past two experiences with neighbors seemed benign at the time when after my brother had passed I tied a black ribbon on my tree to symbolize our house was in mourning. I was asked what did my ribbon mean so I shared the meaning, but no condolences were offered in reply. On a holiday where we flew our U.S. flag on the front lawn, I had a neighbor stop to express her joy and delight in seeing me post it up and she appeared to have a proud tear in her eye. Had she not seen all the other times we’d flown our flag? I’d worked very hard to lay low and be a good neighbor for 7 years and politely overlooked how no one ever came to our gatherings. We were rarely invited to join theirs.
This was all too much for me, I’d never felt so alone and dammit if I would keep paying this HOA fee.
The desire to move was triggered.
Just recounting the story makes me emotional.
To be continued in my next blog post…