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Mack Williams: Move-in next door

A while back, I wrote of the hasty departure of my neighbors from the other half of the “Sondheim-esque” (side by side, as opposed to “upper” and “lower”) duplex in which I live. I like to think of such housing situations as “Separate neighbors under a common roof.” Since there are now new neighbors under “my” roof, symmetry dictates that I should also write about their moving in.

During the uninhabited interim, there were only the creaky house-sounds of warming up and cooling down in the duplex as a whole (except for me); but now there are the additional sounds of human life next door, especially those morning “readying-for-the day” sounds (the human version of those articulated by a rooster at dawn).

There were a lot of “settling in” furniture noises. In the case of the previous renters, the initial picking up of the furniture made no noise, much like anti-gravity (until the astronaut bumps his head on the ceiling of the spacecraft); but when the furniture was dragged out, it reminded me of the distant sounds of quarry blasting in my youth at Granite Quarry School.

Just as with the move-out, the vehicle of choice for the move-in was the pickup truck. Not meaning to be sacrilegious, but in this case the phrase “The pickup truck bringeth, and the pickup truck taketh away” occurred to me.

Later, I could hear the sound of furniture being gently “nudged” until its placement was just right (everyone wants to be Goldilocks).

I happened to meet the lady who was moving in, introducing myself and telling her I worked at the Danville Science Center, since she has a little daughter whom I’m sure would enjoy our activities. Following my introduction, the lady only said: “Okay,” not mentioning her name. It seems the niceties of introduction are not taught as they were in “George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation”( a copy of which my daughter Rachel bought me). But at least the lady didn’t respond with that currently too-oft-used “No problem.”

After I moved in, I chanced to meet a next door neighbor (who lives under a different roof). I introduced myself and she introduced herself, welcoming me to the neighborhood. Our white hair marks us as members of that “manners generation”(but even though my white hair began prematurely at Appalachian, I was schooled in manners even before then by Bernard and Lorraine Williams, my parents).

With time, the new neighbors’ home will really become home to them. As the days pass, “scents” will accumulate and combine: bath soap, body spray, shampoo, hair spray, food cooked deliciously, food burned in frying pan or oven, overly “nuked” microwave popcorn, etc. The addition of “flavored” Glade and Lysol to these will result in an amalgamated smell of “home,” which even the most neutral of Febreze will only partially neutralize.

Even at times when the car is not there, a couple of telltale signs say “half” of the duplex is again occupied: a screen door left partway open, an outside light left on.

Then there is the other bit of undeniable evidence that I am alone no more: the sound of that reassuring, wall-muffled “flush” during the wee (no pun) hours.

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