From Tales of Growing Together

Within a few months the lease was up on the cottage and the young woman living there didn’t want to stay. Couldn’t blame her really. How many people want to hang around after a suicide? Poor thing. Comes home one night after work and can’t get in the driveway. Fire trucks. Ambulance. Coroner. It was hard. For her, too.

We cleaned and painted, made everything ready, put our ad in the classifieds. It didn’t take long, such  a sweet little place. If it had been bigger, not sharing land with ours, the rent might have been too dear. But it had such compact style, a price to match, and applicants came quickly.

It was my first time vetting prospects alone. I thought about everything I’d seen Tom do, collecting information, checking references, running credit reports. Something about a cottage sitting 20 feet from the owner. People with tomfoolery in mind mostly don’t live next door to their landlords. Would-be problems weed themselves out.

A little family came. Mom and Dad, maybe 30, and a 3-year old daughter. Musicians. We talked of the shared arrangement, and of the cottage grandfathered in. A rental at the pleasure of the neighbors, who could complain and have the status changed were they of a mind. Not likely. But the lovely lot needed careful tending so we could all enjoy it. I needed the income. They would get a sheltered place, good neighbors all around, and gardens with fruit trees and roses. A haven behind a hedge.

I didn’t feel drawn to them, nice as they seemed to be. The word simpatico strikes. Or lack thereof. Financials were golden but I would’ve liked more ease with my tenants. I didn’t think I could wait for a perfect fit so I moved ahead.

Problems began right away. All I need say is it was a pain. Keeping agreements wasn't their style. I asked them to go. Offered no-fault divorce. No penalty for breaking our lease, no holding up the deposit. No, they replied. But then, a few weeks later, yes. They left. But I was at square one.

We cleaned and painted, made everything ready, put our ad in the classifieds. It didn’t take long, such  a sweet little place. If it had been bigger, not sharing land with ours, the rent might have been too dear. But it had such compact style, a price to match, and applicants came quickly.

A very different couple came. Unmarried. He much older than she perhaps by 25 years. Most calm and affable while she was a nervous and quirky bookkeeper. Long, spindly legs and a laugh that would have seemed forced for anyone else. But she, so silly with her  head pitched back, neck long, mouth open with a cackle, no one's appearance on purpose. Yet, on her it was somehow charming. Her laugh made ordinary funny.

Again the paperwork and credit checks. Not many references though. And they wanted to pay in cash. Criminals pay in cash, I thought. They checked out from what I saw, even with their queer request.

They felt good. Felt right. It wasn't Tom's way, but he was gone. Time for my formula, my gut, my decision for my son and me.  I chose the peculiar pair.

My 12-year old came home from school and I told him about the two. “New people are coming. I like them and I hope you will, too. I think you’ll feel good around them. But I want to prepare you, they’re a bit different. Not like anyone who’s lived here before. Kind of odd.”

He looked at me for a moment. Affect even, thinking. “Mom, odd odd, or odd like you?”

What to say. Odd like you?  I must have made some kind of face, I don’t know, confused, surprised, quizzical. “Mom,” a pause, “You don’t think you're normal, do you?”

No big judgment. No criticism. Maybe a little sorry to break the news. He was matter of fact. So flatly stated. Trying to get a fix on the neighbors, using me as his odd barometer. “Perhaps unconventional describes them,” I added. “Like they see things a little different way.”

Ahhh, he exhaled, as though he understood. “That’s like you. I’m glad the place is rented. Now you won’t have to worry.” He moved right along with the school day news and to his homework and a snack. Odd like me was apparently our normal. Pretty okay. Not even a thing of concern.

Just like that, I found out I wasn't normal normal.

Oh, and the odd like me couple? He stayed for about four years and then he went away. We never spoke of it. She stayed as long as we did, paying in cash, for another five years. 






Comments

Favorite Random Posts