Tales from the Suburbs: We're Not 'Association' People

I worry like my very life depends on it. Sure, I've read The Secret, and am quite familiar with the Law of Attraction, and I think, based on the information I've gleaned from these timely and empirically sound studies of the human condition, I'm probably doing something wrong. Despite my burning mental energy like a charcoal grill, though, life rolls on.

That said, we've moved into a charming cul-de-sac with homes whose numbers follow absolutely no logical pattern.  And it has an association. Ahem, an Association.

When my husband and I began our search for a home, one of our unwavering conditions was "No association". The thought of shelling out an annual fee to live on Wisteria Lane left me cold. Our imagined paradise, at the time, included abundant acreage and a thick cover of trees, if only to absorb the sounds of the screaming.

We were quite interested in a house that was literally off a dirt road, on several acres, with a well and a septic tank, and nothing around for miles. With my husband's rotating schedule, the prospect of an actual trip with my children to find diapers or a 24-hour pharmacy became considerably frightening. I considered the ability (or inability) of ambulances and/or fire trucks to reach us in an emergency. And considered. And reconsidered. And considered again. And we decided to broaden our horizons.

We didn't mean it, but we fell in love with a house that, while it met many of our requirements, was older than we were looking to buy and in a development.

Before buying, I pored through the association by-laws. I wanted no one telling me I couldn't yodel off my deck at three in the morning, have fifteen iguanas, or sunbathe nude on my front steps. And there were no such rules. The majority of the guidelines related to the landscaping. Sweet, I thought to myself. The association maintained the grounds and the street lights. I could live with that.

We've been bopping, well, not so much bopping as dragging painfully, along for the past two months, all but unaware of our surroundings, our neighbors, or anything that remotely related to the existence of a community-by-contract until a few days ago.

I received a letter. In addition to a request for fees and a timetable it read, "...I look forward to meeting you and your family personally." I read the sentence again slowly, feeling all the blood drain from my face. Those by-laws said nothing, and I mean nothing (because I checked repeatedly) about meeting you personally, pal.

Now, to be fair, I'm sure this is some type of form letter sent to every unsuspecting shmuck who chooses to drop proverbial anchor here. And I'm aware that neighbors, ahem, come in handy. Let me assure you that while we're not perched in rocking chairs with shotguns on a porch adorned with cushionless couches and NO TRESPASSING signs, I'm no Chatty Cathy at home, and my husband, though he may be similarly proportioned and share a fondness for juicy meat, is no Mayor McCheese. We're often half-dressed, covered in smeared food, and crawling around on the floor, wiping up partially chewed tomatoes. We're hardly fit for socializing. And these houses are terribly close together already. That should count for something.

In the spirit of my thinking things literally to death, I imagined a first meeting with this faceless man, Matthew jumping up and down screaming, "Hey, guy! Check this out!" over and over, my daughter crying in his face because she hates strangers, my husband looking down at the ground, shuffling his feet, and me apologizing profusely for asking him twelve times to repeat himself, all while holding Michael back from wiping his face on his pinstriped dress pants. And it's a nightmare. A bloody, gory, cold-sweat-inducing nightmare.

Also, have I told you how terrible I am at forced introductions? And with meeting strangers in social situations in general? I blush, I sweat, I stutter. It's not pretty. In my defense, though, once I get comfortable, I get comfortable. I don't shut up. Go ahead, ask my friends how many Advil they have to take before they see me. Prescription-strength. And, pray tell, what do we have in common with this herald of social awkwardness anyway? That we both turn right (and sometimes left) at the end of the street? Let me assure you, kind sir, a shared geographical location does not a friendship make. Except when a blizzard hits and the dude next door owns a snowblower.

At any rate, we have to send this man a check. And if we send this man a check, we are providing proof that we do, indeed, exist, a gesture that may mistakenly be interpreted as an invitation to our house for coffee. Except that we only have tea, and the sugar bowl's perpetually empty, and the table hasn't been wiped in three days. And, frankly, socializing feels like way too much pressure right now.

So here's to hoping we maintain our anonymity just a little longer, like until the babies turn five or we move away, or until we get our story straight about why the recycle bins have been sitting at the curb since Thursday.

Momma Be Thy Name

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