Who are your neighbors? Are you friends with them, barely say hi, or avoid them altogether? Tell us a story — real or invented — about the people on the other side of your wall (or street, or farm, or… you get the point).
I am the middle child of 15 children. My parents, it seems, were locked in the throes of perpetual procreation. I have seven older sisters and seven younger sisters. I am the only boy. My sisters were (in order of birth – oldest to youngest): Lee Ann, Naomi, Claire, Marie, Bea, Emily, Brenda, Toots, Paula, Eileen, Goldie, Wanda, Elizabeth (Liz), and Elaine. I was the odd man out slotted right in there between Brenda and Toots. My parents were so accustomed to coming up with girls names that I was supposed to be “Belle”. They had referred to me as Belle until the day that I was born and my non-feminine gender was confirmed. They named me “Bill” because it sounded a lot like Belle and they reasoned that if they slipped up it would be less noticeable.
Needless to say there were pros and cons to this situation. A big one on the plus side was that I got all my own clothes. I did not have to deal with ‘hand me downs’ like my sisters did. There were not a lot of other positives that were evident when I was young but they began to emerge as I got older (e.g. my sisters all had girlfriends…). The opposite side of that coin was that I could never win any arguments at home. While my peers were learning to play baseball, mastering the finer points of hunting and angling I, was virtually unbeatable at the game of ‘jacks’ and could wash and iron all my own clothes by the age of seven.
Looking back on it now, I guess we were poor but I never really noticed. Although we fought all the time there was a lot of love in the house – also a lot of hilarity. I have been blessed with enough story material to last through perpetuity. But, this story is supposed to be about neighbors. Let me tell you about the Dixon’s who lived around the corner.
Like us, the Dixon clan was large. There were ten Dixon children, all boys: Brendan, Tom, Robert, Morgan (Mo), Rick, Mike, Kevin, Will, Sarge (I never did know Sarge’s real name – maybe it really was Sarge) and Junior. The boy’s ages were virtually coincidental with the ages of my oldest sisters and me. They used to hang around our house a lot. I used to think that they came over to see me. I was pretty naïve but great friendships and loves emerged. In fact Brendan and my sister Claire will be celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary next month. Toots and Sarge have had an on-again/off-again relationship for the last 7 years but I predict they will live happily ever after. They were best friends before they became lovers and that is some powerful mojo in that.
Junior and I started a software development company a couple of years back and got lucky with our first product offering. Microsoft incorporated it into their Windows OS and we have enough royalties coming in to make it all worthwhile.
But, I apologize, I digress. I told you that I have lots of story fodder from just my own family. Couple this with the Dixon family shenanigans and it is easy to go off on a tangent. I will try to remain focused. As mentioned, there was a lot of activity and interaction between the two tribes. Ten boys and fourteen girls within half a block of each other are a sure recipe for sparks.
As a Sophomore in high school my sister Bea crushed pretty bad over Mo Dixon. She was sure that he was going to invite her to the Junior/Senior prom that year but he didn’t. He invited that Gladstone girl instead (I couldn’t say I blamed him – she had giant hooters and it was rumored that she had let more than one high school boy actually touch them). Bea was crushed.
On the day she found out about it Bea tried to commit suicide. I think I was in the seventh or eighth grade (old enough to be noticing girls). I came home from school and found Bea on her knees in the garage, looking into the dryer. She had her thumb on the interlock and the drum was spinning around and around. I said, “Hey Bea, what’s up, something wrong with the dryer?”
“Screw you Bill.”
“Seriously Bea, is the dryer broken? It’s my turn to do laundry and I am running out of underwear. I gotta use this machine tonight.”
“Screw you Bill. Go away.”
Like a laser I focused in on the fact that Bea was upset. I could also feel the heat coming out of the dryer so, I knew it wasn’t broken. “What are you trying to do Bea?”
“I going to kill myself she said. No one cares and probably no one will even notice” she sobbed as the drum continued to circle her head. “Morgan asked that slut, Gina Gladstone, to the dance. I thought he was going to ask me.” She pulled her head out of the dryer and looked at me with wide, tearful eyes.
“Is that all?” I asked her. “He just wants to feel her tits. He doesn’t care about her. He cares about you. And, if you really want to kill yourself you should try sticking your head in the gas oven, not the electric dryer. It’ll work better. Turn the pilot light out first though.” I waved to her and went on into the house. Bea always had a tendency towards the melodramatic but, she gave up that day and didn’t kill herself. She followed me into the house and I got us both a couple of Oreos. We never discussed it again. Gina Gladstone is now Mrs. Morgan Dixon. She and Mo have two kids, a boy named Eddie and a daughter named Ruby. Did I mention that my sister Bea was a bridesmaid when Gina and Mo got married? She is also Ruby’s godmother.
One of those things that make you go Hmmm?
I realize that this story turned out to be primarily about Bea and not about the neighbors but… I did mention them all by name. I neglected to tell you that they also had a dog named Gandalf but, I’ve corrected that oversight now. Maybe I can tell you more next time, if you’re interested. The whole thing is complicated so plan on coming for dinner. We can talk more then.
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