For a full decade, I have lived directly next door to a duplex that houses small, one bedroom apartments. Two things here: when I say directly next door, I mean that if you open my front door and just sort of… stick your arm out and lean forward, you can touch the front unit’s door. Also-when I say small-I mean, they are very small, outdated little hotboxes that do not benefit at all from our cool ocean breezes and mostly sunny skies. But what is truly amazing is that in the last ten years with the seemingly revolving door of new tenants entering our lives-I can honestly say there was ONE bad tenant. One. It turned out she really valued her privacy, didn’t like children or people in general so it’s no surprise she hated every second of her year as my neighbor. The TWO locks she had secured to her front door when she moved in did tip me off that maaaaaybe we wouldn't be sloshing sav blanc together on the front stoop like MOST of my neighbors like to do, but her pure disdain for her living situation was apparent to even The Children who would run and hide every time her car pulled up. (To be fair, they were just taking my lead.)
Mean, Privacy-Loving, Person-Hating Lady aside, the relationships that I have formed with my Roommates, as I like to call my Duplex Neighbors, have been some of the richest in my life. Not because we all become the best of friends, although that has certainly happened, but because of how intertwined our lives become. When you live thisclose to people, you have two choices: get two locks on your door and pretend it’s not happening or fling your door open and let the life around you come in. And considering that pretty much my entire neighborhood knows the code to both my garage AND my front door, I think you know where I stand. Our door is always wide, wide open. I try to close it when it’s Time To Yell, but even then, fuck….that’s just the way it is so get used to it. (And do you know what a good Roommate does when Mama is losing her shit? They bring her alcohol.)
But all good Roommates do come to an end. As it is about to again. Back Unit Roommates have decided that Sunlight and Grass seem like a good idea and hence…they are moving out. When I was told by Roommate that they were moving out he said-Don’t worry; we’re telling everyone who comes to check it out that they aren’t just moving into an apartment, they’re moving into a family. And I had little tears in my eyes and I said that’s so sweet. And so true. And after a tender moment shared I looked him squarely in the eye and asked: But you are warning them about Daughter, aren’t you? He laughed because he knows he can’t explain what it’s like living next door to an invasive, somewhat inappropriate 7 year old girl, he can only warn any new potential tenant that the second you start moving your shit in, Daughter will be all over your ass like white on rice. The best advice I can give with regards to Daughter? Don’t resist. Lean into the crazy. She’ll break you down eventually so it’s better to just get on her good side right away.
A few tips if you happen to find yourself our new Roommate in the Back Unit;
One: Have a few interesting books for Daughter to look at when she wanders into your place unannounced; this way she won’t talk as much and you can continue whatever it is you were doing before she invaded. (Where’s Waldo has been very popular over the years.) Also, if you plan on handing her your device to get her to be quiet, please make sure there are some age appropriate educational games on it. And a basket of some art supplies within easy reach is not a bad idea either.
Two: She likes dance parties. A lot. It’s probably easiest for you to have some sort of streaming service so every song is at your fingertips for her aggressive demands. Turn it up loud and give her some space because she’ll probably bust out some splits. And it’s not a bad idea to make sure you’re working out so you can do the lifts and the twirling she has lined up for you.
Three: Be prepared for some completely invasive questions. Are you married? Why? Why not? Are you having a baby? Do you want a baby? Why don’t you have a baby? Where were you? What time are you coming back? Why don’t you have a job? Do you like your job? How old are you?
Four: If your door is open, it means, Come on in! (This also goes for our door, and once you’ve been properly vetted by Daughter, you, too, can have the code to the garage and the front door.) Although there are clearly some boundary issues with Daughter, she’s pretty respectful of the Closed Door. She’ll pepper you with questions about it later, but you can have peace if you so desire it with the Closed Door Policy I’ve been forced to implement.
Five: Don’t be afraid to put her to work! Need help walking your dog? She’s your girl. Locked yourself out of the house and need a Small Person to climb through your window? Look no further. Need a hand with a little light house cleaning?Give that girl a dust rag and tell her to get on it! Somewhere in there she knows she needs to earn her keep with you and will happily oblige.
Each new Roommate that has entered our lives has left an impression on me and My Children. Some impressions have stood the test of time and others slip away silently as they tend to do. But every now and again, I think of each of them, having come and gone in our lives and I wonder if they ever stop and think of The Gelato Family. I hope they do. I hope they are as grateful for the year or two they watched Son and Daughter grow as I was for their random acts of kindness towards them; the Christmas and birthday gifts bestowed upon them, the games of catch in the street, the sheer willingness to let Crazy enter your apartment at free will and actually enjoy the company of Small Children. I cannot imagine a life without knowing my neighbors. I cannot imagine emptiness beside me. I mean, sometimes I can, but 87% of the time, I am forever grateful for the lives that are lived beside me.
So if you find yourself in that back unit, remember those two choices: close up real tight and pretend we’re not happening, or fling that door open and let us in. And considering I’ve had to help my Roommates break into both of those units before….just go ahead and let us in.
Daughter is waiting for you.
(She actually is.)
((I think she’s back there right now….))