Posted by: Hannah | 05/24/2012

don’t fence me in

I grew up surrounded by trees.

My parents have 18 acres? I think? Something like that. It’s a big piece, anyway. Almost nothing was cleared when I was a kid and even now, I’d say maybe half to three-quarters of an acre is bare of trees. The rest is a mix of softwoods and old growth hardwoods, birch and poplar and oak.

There are neighbours on either side, but we couldn’t see each other. Still can’t. You could easily dance naked in the yard and not bother a living soul.

At night, the sky is immense and the darkness total.

***

Hubs grew up in the suburbs, in a townhouse just like all the other townhouses in the development. Postage-stamp lawns, a community pool just for the residents, no privacy, never silent.

He could walk, bike, or bus to everything: libraries, ball fields, malls, schools, playgrounds.

Summer evenings were gangs of kids roaming up and down the cul-de-sac, lawnmowers, radios, noise.

***

It’s hard to imagine two more different worlds. And yet we met, and fell in love, and here we are three kids later and today is a day that I hate having neighbours.

***

We bought the house we’re living in now because we needed a home to accommodate the needs of our growing family as well as my father in law. We basically had three criteria: in law suite, good school district, affordable. This house fit the bill.

One of the first things we did was spend a substantial chunk of money putting up a fence; a nice wooden fence, to demarcate our property from the one next door and make a safe place for kids to play without an adult watching. We also built a massive deck out the back, for the patio parties we both want to have.

And we’ve had many! We have a Canada Day barbeque every year. We entertain friends and family out there. We sit in the evenings and I try to ignore the road noise while I look up at the dim stars fighting with the streetlights, and Hubs grits his teeth in the spring when the peepers are in full voice because he finds the racket distracting.

We love our deck.

This week, our neighbours, who have always been a source of noise and disturbance, upped the ante. They are building a garage in their backyard. Their backyard which is next to our backyard. Their new garage will be in full view of our deck.

They are the sorts of folks who constantly have cars up on blocks, cars with the engines ripped out and dangling from jury-rigged chainfalls, cars with modified mufflers and patchwork paint jobs. Folks who one night, I swear to god, were hammering away on a car engine with a goddamn five-pound sledgehammer because they were trying to pop out the pistons.

They swear a lot when they’re working on their cars, and they smoke a lot, and one time we were having dinner on our deck when one of them cheerfully whipped it out and pissed up against their oil tank.

I am afraid that the advent of the garage will mean more cars, more shirtless layabouts, more noise, more disruption.

I already feel like I have no privacy. This may be nothing. It may mean that some of the mess gets cleaned up and contained within the garage – maybe the noise does, too. I can hope. But lately I’ve been really feeling the need for peace, for quiet, for solitude. I want the boys to have trees to climb and brambles to get tangled in and rocks to jump off. I’m tired of my square flat lawn. I’m tired of noise, tired of cars.

If this is living in a neighbourhood, my misanthropic self is over it.

Last night we had a discussion, Hubs and I, about where we see ourselves once the boys leave home and we don’t need this giant house anymore. We both agree that this is not our forever home. But our visions for the future are quite different. I want land, lots of land, and a smallish house. I don’t care if ‘the city’ is a two hour drive away. He wants land too, but with a more cottage bent, and a little place right in the heart of the downtown would suit him just fine.

So I browse Kijiji, and I find land for sale. And dilapidated houses with straight roof lines, and small lots on lakefronts, and I dream.

And then I close all the windows to block out the noise.

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Responses

  1. (Did I just post this comment 8 times in a row?! If yes, sorry and please delete all but 1! Thanks!)

    I can totally relate to this post, Hannah. I am about to say something that might horrify and/or offend you: my husband and I are middle-class and white-collar and I want to live in an area with other middle-class, white-collar people. My ideal is a small house in a mature/gentrified, ethnically diverse, economically homogenized, urban neighbourhood with everything I need in walking distance.

    I had hill-billy neighbours like the ones you describe, and ten years on I still have some form of PTSD about that period. I use to want to live in the country until I realized that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice access to high speed internet.

    And my husband? He wants to live in a yurt. Aren’t you glad you don’t live next to us?

    • It doesn’t offend me, not in the least. You know what you want, and your dream neighbourhood also sounds lovely. I’d love it too if I couldn’t see my neighbours unless *I* wanted to. 😉

  2. It was suggested to me that my need for a city address could be satisfied with a fairly simple apartment. While the retirement digs could be more “woodsy”. Fortunately there are years to go yet.

  3. I’m a city girl, and by city, I mean I likes me some amenities. I actually get squigged by the thought of not seeing neighbours – I like to have people around me, even if my neighbour across the street mows the lawn with his manboobs all flopping for all to see, and my neighbour two doors down is a crazy catwoman who wants her kitties to play with my dog, and my next door neighbour has called me Michelle for twelve years. What would I blog about if not my neighbours? I don’t think I could live in the country.

    • Michael: I guess I can start calling you Michael on here, huh. 🙂 If there is such a thing as a simple apartment on the peninsula when we hit retirement age, you’re on, handsome. IF THERE ARE ALSO THEATRE TICKETS AND WINE BARS.

      Nicole: Or should I say ‘Michelle’. That’s hilarious. Been going on too long to correct it, now?

  4. Until 10 I was living in Cape Breton’s “happening metropolis” of Sydney. Our neighbours were mere meters away, there were always kids to play with, and I could roam pretty much anywhere (and I did) as long as I was home for dinner. Then we moved a 15 minute drive away to the “country” (as you can when the “city” is that small), onto 4 or 5 acres by the river. I seriously missed the non-stop action, but I absolutely adored the water and the abundance of trees.

    Now we live in suburbia Melbourne, which truly is a happening metropolis, and the city Jag grew up on the outskirts of, close to national parks. He would love to move to a small country town, while I simply can’t fathom it. I would, however, love to have that sweet spot of 4 or 5 acres on the river, 15 minutes from the city. But that doesn’t exist when there are 4 million people in the city. Instead I’m happy to settle for the relative sweet spot of being not too far a drive away from the heart of the city or the middle of nature. Mind you, if money were no object, I would love a city apartment and a holiday house on the beach or in the hills. 🙂

  5. I love the country, peepers included. While I like having some neighbours, it’s also nice to have some peace. Free peeing neighbours would be a lot to take!


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