Think back to your neighbors you’ve had throughout your life.  Did they help to shape your life in some way?  This little blog post is dedicated to those neighbors that helped to shape my life.

When I was five (and a half), my family moved from one of the worst parts of downtown Atlanta to a then rural suburban community.  Next to the train tracks down the road, there was a nice little horse farm that let you go for rides.  Although we weren’t allowed to go because the owners smoked too much pot, the idea that people even had horses anywhere nearby excited this horse-loving little girl.

Our neighborhood was filled with nice kids for me to play with and lots of girls for my older brother to beat up.  Sure, our next door neighbor Kimberly might have put the fear of God into me when she told me that there was a known murderer living in the neighborhood who only murdered people living in our house.  This murder’s name was Joe and he’d killed a train engineer  as a teenager.  He did about 10 years of jail time.  She happened to leave out the part about the death being an accidental.  Details. That was the first lesson she taught me: skepticism is a good thing.

Kimberly also taught me the importance of “hocking a loogey” with as much of a prelude as possible. “It’s all in the rumbling sound you make with your sinuses,” she said as she demonstrated.  It turned out that I was a natural.  Having constant sinus drainage, I outdid the master at her own game and learned later to use it against boy’s with weak stomachs.

Within a year, they moved and we had our introduction to our new next door neighbors when we noticed their little yippie dog barking at us.  Being children with little to no social graces, we teased the dog by barking back over the large wooden privacy fence.  The dog went crazy, bouncing up and down like a hamster on crack.  That’s when we heard the ever memorable voice of our neighbor Eva Ostrovsky.  To imagine her voice, think of Julia Child’s with a pronounced eastern European accent.

“Aww, poor Tim-ah-tee (Timothy),” she began. “You should not tease, my poor Timothy, that is not nice.”  We all stood dead still, not being able to see her and only hearing the man voice doing an impression of a woman.  Finally, we peeked over to see that it was indeed a woman.  We had a long and notable relationship with Ms. Eva and her husband Irving “who’s cool as a cucumber,” Mom would always interject.  We thought it funny how Ms. Eva doted on her beloved Timothy and decrepit cat Shiva so much.  We had an almost identical cat that beat Shiva up all of the time.

Throughout the spring and summer, Ms. Eva blasted opera to her plants (to make them grow–she said).  She seemed to have an abundantly green thumb and it showed in her fairy-land flower garden.  Ms. Eva’s love for her garden taught me that beautiful things take love and care and sometimes, a little Puccini to grow.  However, she held a particular hatred for the “hairy bush” that grew on our property line.  Each year, she hacked away out our favorite bush and twice, in the process of burning and digging it up, she hacked through our phones lines. She grew tall privacy bushes between our properties so that she wouldn’t have to look at our Sanford and Sons backyard.  And although most of these things crack me up to think of, she did one very kind thing for me.  She once told me, “Always keep singing because you sing like an angel and I know it makes God smile.  It makes my heart glad too.”

On the other side of us, we had neighbors Hugo III and his son Hugo IV.  Hugo Jr . Jr. Jr. was learning to play the drums. As the years progressed, it became clear that all along, he had been playing the “George of the Jungle” theme song.  I always enjoyed his summer practice because it coincided with my tilling up and tending our somewhat large vegetable garden (that eventually grew extinct thanks to those tall privacy bushes of Ms. Eva’s).

A few years ago, my Mom called to regale me with a long story about how my youngest brother and a neighbor kid accidentally almost burned down our entire neighborhood.  Okay, not the entire neighborhood, just ours and the Hugo’s, Ostrovksy’s, and the other neighbors I won’t mention here.  It started off a rather typical story.  There was a little fire that my youngest brother and a little neighbor kid started in our backyard when they found a lighter.  My brother grabbed the dog’s water bowl and tried to put it out.  Unfortunately, at the time, there was a rather severe drought in Georgia, and everything was highly flammable.  So, seeing that the dog bowl didn’t work as expected, Mom was called in to save the day.  Mom sprayed it down with the hose for an hour until there was barely any sign of smoke.  Whew!  That was a close one.  Story over.

That would be rather anti-climactic, wouldn’t it?

At 3 AM, Hugo III, whose fence and tall trees were currently burning to a crisp, awoke from the smell of smoke and a very bright light.  He looked out to find that both our backyards were ablaze.  He called the fire department, and tried to wake my parents up (calling, banging on the doors, etc…).  Dad awoke, thinking that he heard a fire truck, looked out of the wrong window, and not seeing anything, went back to bed.  In the morning, everyone awoke to find that our backyard no longer had trees, nor a rotting privacy fence.  They also found that the front half of our Previa was melted like the Nazi guy’s face in Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.  My brother Philip still drives the melted van and probably will until the old thing gives up the ghost.

And that is how Hugo III saved my family.  Lesson learned?  Never play with fire in a drought!

What are your neighbor stories?


  1. I love your writing style, Anna. Found myself smiling all the way through reading it, as you described everyone with intrigue. Definately engaging!

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