Behind these dandelions you can see the empty lot, directly across the street from us. We love how this lot fills with dandelions every spring. This is one of my photos from last year when we picked to our heart's content in order to make 'candle-lion jelly'. I've written about this lot a few times--and sometimes I think it's the only thing that keeps me from going insane on my tiny little property. It fills me with hope, and dreams of eventual growing expansion, if I'm ever allowed.
Edna (who lives in the white house pictured on the right of the photo) owns the lot. Currently in her 90s, she lives alone, is spry, healthy, and very independent. She's also quite a hermit. I rarely see her outside unless she is whipping out of her garage in her car, for which she is still licensed and quite capable of driving. It's not that she is shy. On the rare occasions I've caught her, we've had lengthy conversations, mostly recollections of her life and all the neighborhood gossip I'd ever care to hear, from eras long before I even lived here. For someone who hardly ever leaves the house, she seems to know everything about the neighborhood and disapproves of most of her neighbors--past and present-- in some way.
I find her intimidating. And I want to buy her lot from her. Somehow the topic never fully materializes.
Yesterday I saw a bearer of doom, a grim reaper of sorts, wandering from door to door of our street. I saw the logo on his polo shirt--TruGreen, a lawn care company with a fleet of chemical trucks constantly patrolling the city--and I groaned. A door to door poison salesman. I watched from my kitchen window as he headed toward Edna's house and thought "Yeah, good luck getting her to answer the door." But then, coincidentally, her garage door peeled open and she stepped out, probably to get her trash bin, just as the grim reaper--er lawn care representative--entered her driveway.
My heart fell. Panic-stricken, I stared at the two as they talked. She pointed to the empty lot and then walked him around the opposite side of her house. A lot of animated pointing, smiling and nodding was going on. I felt my stomach roll as I imagined a certain bleak future of an empty lot void of dandelions, tidy and green and sterile.
Practically on the verge of tears, I saw Biscuit, my newly-allowed-outdoors cat, run to the edge of my front yard. He appeared to be on a mission and it was obvious he was about to cross the street. Oh crap, Biscuit! You are supposed to stay on this side! Sure enough, he strode not only across the street but directly to Edna's driveway. I rushed out the front door and marched over to Edna's, certain my cat's roaming behavior would be added to her list of undesirable neighborhood activities.
Grim the lawn guy, to my utter shock, picked Biscuit up as I approached. "I'm so sorry! Wow, he let you grab him?" I said as I collected my perturbed pet. "Yep, he did--for now," Grim said as he handed my squirming fat cat over. I turned to Edna. "He hasn't been over here bothering you, has he?" I asked, and wondered as the words came out if she would think I meant the cat, or the man. Edna held up her hands and shook her head as Grim edged closer to me and pointed over to my lawn. "Would you like me to take care of those weeds for you?" To me it was a completely inappropriate and creepy proposition. I probably grimaced as I stammered "Oh, no, no...we are all-organic." I'm not even sure what that was supposed to mean, but it's what came out of my mouth and Grim seemed to accept it without question. "Oh, I see! Okay, well have a nice day, ladies." As he walked off, I felt the breath come out of my lungs with relief.
I couldn't help but ask, my heart trembling, as I walked closer to Edna. "So, are you going to start getting the lot sprayed?" My throat caught as if a pebble suddenly lodged itself there.
Edna shot me a look of disgust she seems to have perfected in her 90-odd years; I've seen it almost every time we've talked. "Oh my god, no! I don't believe in that stuff! You'll never see me paying those people to get rid of weeds...and my lawn is always green without anything added. I took his card, but I won't be calling." The disdainful wrinkles on her critical little face never looked so beautiful to me. "You don't know how happy that makes me!" Embarrassed by my gushing, I toned it down immediately: "I will never spray my lawn, either. And we really love the lot, and all the dandelions. I'd hate to see it getting treated." I didn't tell her how much I adored the fact that she had given us explicit permission to play on the lot whenever we wanted.
In the way she always does, she immediately began to point out whatever wrongdoings she'd been a witness to lately. "Well, those boys have been practicing baseball in the yard (she calls the lot 'the yard'). I told them do what they want, but don't hit my house. Wouldn't you know, last week they hit my roof." Her silence suggested I offer a solution, a consolation, or at least an acknowledgement. Biscuit finally wrestled from my arms in a sudden, violent body twist and rushed for her porch. "Oh no, I'm sorry...did the ball cause any damage? I'll make sure they are very careful if they decide to practice with the ball over there." She gave a nod and answered "No damage...they stopped batting and just practiced catching after the ball landed on the roof."
She turned to the porch and stared at Biscuit, who was rolling around on his back all over the concrete slab. "Does that cat have fleas?"
"Oh, no, don't worry, he doesn't...."
"And whose truck is that?" she demanded, nodding toward Craig's truck that he had just that afternoon parked in the street across from her house. "Is that your husband's? You know, he really shouldn't park right in my way, there, in case I need to get out." My eyebrows went up at the preposterous idea that his truck was in her way at all, and at the fact that he rarely ever parks anywhere but the driveway, but in my heady relief, none of her outbursts could hurt my feelings or put me on edge today. I assured her that I'd let Craig know he shouldn't park there. She made it clear our conversation was over, though I longed to restart the whole 'Oh by the way can I buy your lot, pretty pretty please, or at least garden on it' conversation. She walked into her garage, curtly but politely told me to have a good day, and I turned with a smile, grabbing Biscuit from her porch as I left. He twisted and screeched in protest.
"Biscuit. Great news. NO poison on the lot!" Not sharing my joy, he tried to claw me, but I only grinned and skipped across the street, back home.