While living in a new residential estate can often feel like living on a construction site (the sand, the workmen and the noise from their equipment, the road closures and lack of infrastructure in the beginning), one of the main advantages, we were told, was the sense of community that it fosters. You end up knowing everyone on the street, as you bump into them either overseeing the construction of your house, or while moving in with your furniture or as you spend time caring for your new front garden (for non-gardeners like us, the “caring” lasts until it’s time for the first lawn mowing). And of course, if the estate is developed by reputed/big developers, they organise events like movie nights, group fitness classes, BBQ in the new park, Easter egg hunt, kid’s boot camps etc. to help you “meet your neighbours”.
Now, those you know (have seen) me, know that the idea of a “fitness class”, that too with my “new neighbours”, would be as riveting for me as a worm cupcake (the type that witches are known to make). As for movie nights and BBQs, those I like…but unfortunately couldn’t make it to any, because we were either overseas on holiday, or at another one of those million birthday parties we attend (thanks to our little social butterfly). Easter morning egg hunt…erm, we missed that too, because by the time we woke up, we didn’t think there would be a single egg left.
So yesterday, on a relatively relaxed Sunday, we decided to walk to the park….and hoped to “see” some of our neighbours. The social butterfly chose to ride her trike, while her parents cleared the streets of dogs, people, birds and even plants (if we could), to keep her from running them over. It was a beautiful day…the sun, the clear blue sky, the hyperactive toddlers fighting over their turn at the swing. We exchanged polite greetings with the other parents, only to find out that they didn’t actually “live” in our estate. They had come over from the neighbouring suburbs because they had heard great things about our park.
So after half an hour at the park, we decided to head home, disappointed for not having spotted a single neighbour. Oh well, we did have a good time, nevertheless….and there were no accidents, major tantrums, or trying to hug/kiss unsuspecting young boys by our drama queen.
As luck would have it, the neighbours from the first house on our street were out on their freshly laid front lawn and driveway. We greeted, smiled, complimented their house and their child and shared a few of our “building house nightmares”. All was going very well. They even invited us in for a cup of tea, and we promised “some other time”. Just as we were saying bye, our little girl peed her pants. While I turned red (and “A”, a shade of purple), she proudly declared that she was watering their lovely lawn….and actually did a little run and turn, to…erm…equally spread her offering on the grass. Afraid to look our neighbour in the eye, I did catch a glimpse of them smiling politely and saying “it was OK”. By that time, I had nervously picked up the mobile water sprinkler in my arms, and let her finish the job on my skirt. I could hear “A” apologise profusely, and explain to them that we were trying to toilet train her and encouraging her to be without nappies when we went out short distances from home. It was hit and miss – some days she was really good at telling us, and other days, it was too late. But apparently, this is how they learn.
I don’t know how they took the uninvited discourse on toilet training (especially after what happened). But in my embarrassment, rush and nervousness, I started running with her. While I ran, I told the neighbour “I will get our hose and clean up the lawn.” How I planned to do that, don’t ask. We would need a really long hose…and, it would probably just be easier to borrow theirs. Most importantly, can water-based substances really be “cleaned” from grass? So, I ran in my wet skirt, with an overjoyed toddler trying to pull her pants down because they were wet.
Just then, the neighbours from across the street came out into their driveway, and started walking towards me, smiling. I never wanted an invisible cloak so badly before. I kept running….and even before they could say anything, I cried out “some other time”! I didn’t look back to see the expression on their faces. But I won’t be surprised if they list their house for sale tomorrow. After all, who wants to live next to a complete lunatic who runs in a wet skirt, clumsily carrying their half-naked child….throwing gibberish in air!
The evening was gloomy. We decided to wear dark glasses and avoid eye contact with anybody in our street in the near future.