I used to want to live in the country. I wanted a mile between our house and our nearest neighbor. I wanted to grow my own produce, raise my own cows, make my own clothes, cultivate my own herbs, and ride horses to the nearest…wherever. It was beautiful. It was utopian. It was bliss.
It was also crazy.
It wasn’t so much the thought itself. I mean, more people than not conjure up pipe dreams of yester-century America, a la Charlotte’s Web or Johnny Appleseed. And at some point in their lives, some may begin to think, why not try to bring dreams to reality? What’s stopping us?
I’ll tell you what ends up stopping us (or, for those who succeed, make them end up regretting it). It’s the fact that no matter what kind of utopia you succeed in creating, it stops once you reach the end of your property line. The rest of the world still doesn’t think the same way. Even in the deep recesses of the central Texas heartland, you still find SUVs, Volkswagon Bugs, Smart Cars, and yuppies on cellphones. They just happen to have a more rural zip code.
Or, you can end up in my parents’ predicament: living next to an utterly crazy lady. She’s the most dangerous kind because to all but the most ESP-gifted and aware, she appears completely normal, competent of living on her own, and self-sufficient. In fact, she earns Gold Stars among the conservative country bumpkin backdrop: she’s a survivor. At first glance, she can stand on her own two feet.
But after several years (and several failed marriages, the last two of which we have witnessed coincidentally ending up in the husband-du-jour going off the psychiatric deep end), a different picture begins to emerge.
Suddenly, the real situation is revealed: a mentally unstable individual who raises two children, one of whom is of the too-quiet type (kinda like Jeffery Dahmer in his early years) and the other of whom can do absolutely no wrong because they are Momma’s Favorite, on whom the sun both rises and sets. Both are reaching a dangerous age and are left on their own far too long (and often) with far too little supervision. It’s kind of taking the “it takes a village to raise a child” a little too far. Neighbors several houses over (in the country, mind you) are having to take a more active role in supervising and guiding these children through puberty and boundaries/limitations than their own biological parents. One of whom is probably already in a psych ward and the other of whom should probably join him.
And now it culminates in the underwear-wetting “oh shit” possibility that this crazy neighbor may in fact have one of my parents’ new housekeys. Hence the semi-frantic phone call to the office this morning. It’s not that I mind coming to the rescue; it’s that I mind that good people have to put up with this crap in the first place. And what’s worse, in the area you’d least suspect. The area to which you move to get away from problems like this.
So what’s the purpose of this post? Well, probably several-fold.
First, don’t ever for a second think that you’ll escape insane nutjobs just because you move to the country. There are about as many crazy people per square mile whether you’re in the city or the country, I guarantee it. Don’t think your life will be peace and quiet because there is always something and there is always (at least) one person who dominates your attention.
Second, I’m hoping to maybe establish a record, i.e. sort of a “Kilroy was here” in case anything ever does come of this incident. Incidents like this have been known (frequently) to escalate into something more serious. And the cops are getting really good at Google, so even though I prefer to remain quite anonymous, where there’s a will, there’s a way if someone really wants to find out.
Third, research your neighbors (even several houses down, if you can) no matter where you’re moving, before you buy. Do not ignore your gut, either. The “benefit of the doubt” mindset creates lots of future victims. Don’t be “nice”. Be vigilant.
Fourth, don’t hold stuff for your neighbors, especially if there has been any incidence of substance abuse, psychiatric instability, economic/financial instability, serious domestic conflict, a refusal to supervise/discipline children properly, etc. Seriously. My mom was “nice” and held this crazy neighbor’s spare key for her should the kids lock her out of the house (by accident or on purpose – that should tell you something) and it may have resulted in this insane lady possibly having my parents’ house key in her possession. If your neighbor is that flighty or full of potential conflict, you may have a problem on your hands. All of the clues mentioned earlier in this paragraph were there. Don’t be afraid to look hard enough, see those things for what they are, and react/protect yourself accordingly.
Fifth – for God’s sake, if your kids tell you they have fewer problems in the city and encourage you to move closer in, frigging do so. 🙂