As a first-time homeowner, I’m quickly getting an education in suburban life. The first weekend in my new home, following a raucous house-warming party, I was reminded that I’m not in college any more, nor even a college town. I’m a single man surrounded by families that have bedtimes, appointments and other responsibilities (I think that’s what he said). Then there are those holiday expectations.
On Halloween – unaware that I would be inundated with trick-or-treaters – I bought just three bags of candy that lasted barely 30 minutes. Thus, I was forced to flee my house out of fear of looking inept by my neighbors and their children. Now Christmas is approaching and lights, wreaths and stocking all must be purchased for the home so mine isn’t as conspicuous as a missing tooth.
It wasn’t like this when I bounced around rental homes and apartments. There, the pressure to abide by certain rules during certain times of year and day was minor. I have never, in fact, bought a Christmas tree. I love the holiday, but I always spend it at my family’s home in Spokane, Wash. I figured there was no reason to decorate, since no one would be home on the day for which I’m doing it.
That’s all changing. I’m realizing the little things you do in a neighborhood are as much for your neighbors as they are for yourself. I should have learned this during previous holidays, when my mother would mumble that she was going to pop the neighbor’s gaudy inflatable snowman waving at her from across the street. In turn, rumor has it, that our neighbors hated my family’s Christmas “motion lights” – something about our split-level home resembling a casino.
I’m quickly learning the rules of my new neighborhood. Socialize, but not too late. Be neighborly, but not too nosey. And decorate, but not too much. Always buy Christmas decorations, even if you’re going to be gone the whole month of December. It’s not for you. It’s for your neighbors who have families, appointments, responsibilities and are probably talking behind your back.
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