Monday, December 05, 2005

The Small Things

It was a nice family weekend. Recent Christmas holidays have brought the deaths of my mother and grandfather, and for one reason or another we haven't been at our own home with our own tree for quite some time. This weekend we dusted off the ornaments and decorated the tree. The last to come out was the train, which orbits the tree stand in a large oval. The kids don't see the train, or the "Ch-choo" as baby
Emmett calls it, but once a year, so the excitement level is extreme.

Our neighbors invited us over for dinner, and we had our best visit yet. Our five year olds are engaged to be married when they come of age, and it is the cutest thing ever to watch them sit close together on a couch that could accommodate six or seven kids across, with their legs drawn up and leaning into each other. A Kodak moment as they used to say.

We've been friends for almost a year now. But this weekend is the first time our personal history with drugs came up in conversation. We had this same talk with our friends in California, almost again a year after we met. If you have any experience living in a neighborhood where you plan to stay for a spell, there are many personal habits you might want to keep to yourself. I'm sure some of my younger blogger friends will disagree, that being yourself is the only way, but life has taught me a few lessons in group dynamics. If a single person in a community with a loud voice takes a dislike to you, the wheels of fate will run you over and plant you six feet under. I promise you. Issues concerning religion, sex, drugs, abortion, political leanings can be your undoing. So naturally, it's best to keep your mouth shut.

And that is hard for me to do.

That is why I am always the ice breaker between us and our newest friends. I don't come right out and ask, or tell; I talk around the issue like a game of tetherball. As the ball travels around the pole, the rope pulls it closer to the pole the more revolutions it makes. I don't keep madly batting at the ball; rather I serve it up for my "opponent" to either hit it back or pass it along in the same direction. My neighbor Tracy decided on the latter, and soon enough we were sharing old college stories. It turns out too that her husband Ian and I have a similar taste in books. So now I have a handful of Terry Pratchet's, which is only a small slice of his collection.

Life is about the small things.

23 comments:

magnetbabe said...

I couldn't agree more. I grew up in an extremely friendly, happy neighborhood until a few years back when my dad put up a "Say No to War With Iraq" sign in the front yard. I and my dad were both against the war from the beginning, but I recognized the harm that can be done by mixing politics with casual friendship. Within days almost everyone on the block had "Support Our Troops" signs in their yards (are the two signs opposites?! I personally don't think so...) and none of the neighbors ever talked to him again. 20 years in the same house and that's what did it.
In the end, my dad needed a bigger house for his new wife and step daughter, sold the house for a bundle and lives in a much more forgiving neighborhood. I still hope he'll be more careful in the future though.

Eve said...

There's standing up for what you believe in and knowing when and where to do it. Also knowing that there will be consequences if you do. That's why I can't understand when these celebrities do or say something and then can't understand when people get mad at them - I support everyone's right to express an opinion - but in doing so a person has to acknowledge that there may be consequences and then weigh whether it's important enough to go ahead and make your beliefs known. Magnetbabe - I would have talked to your father. I never put political signs in the yard, nor bumper stickers on the car for this very reason. And I'm with Scott - it takes me a while to get into the landmine of politics and religion.

Scott said...

MB - Well I'm sad for your father. It's too bad that we can't disagree even about something as big as the Iraq war. I have gotten into some heated discussions with others on the subject, but I get mad when I argue with people that start with "I hate Bush" and work backwards from there. My neighbors Tracy and Ian, whom I mention in this post, are fervent liberals that despise him, but we have great discussions on the subject, and are respectful of each others opinions. They actually pause a moment and consider when I make a good point, which has been known to happen on occasion.

As for the seeming oppositional statements of "Say No to War With Iraq" and "Support our Troops", I have to agree with you. The latter slogan is a compromise between the two camps, created I believe, by the Democrats to position themselves as supporters of the troops but not the war. How I feel about their sincerity is another issue, but to say outright that the two statements are opposite is just Republican spin.

Your father should have been engaged in a healthy discussion, not ostracized for standing up for his beliefs. Here is Mass, in every lawn before the presidential election you could see John Kerry posters. One old guy, surrounded by houses so adorned, had a Bush poster up. He sat in his yard as everyone drove by to see. He had some balls.

Scott said...

Eve - I want to strangle those actors and singers that bemoan the death of free speech when they get booed off the stage for supporting a political cause. Hand me the microphone when you get done imposing your beliefs on me you SOB! It's insulting really that my money propped this person on stage.

jenbeauty said...

Your father should have been engaged in a healthy discussion, not ostracized for standing up for his beliefs. Very well said Scott. Plus he has every right to his opinion on this war.

Yep always a delicate balance when talking about our past and letting people know who we were. But my past has brought me to the place I am currently. If someone wants to judge me on my past indiscretions then I don't want them in my life. I find most people who act like that to be hypocritical. I may be a bit synical but I find it hard to believe that the majority have not particiated in a little "partying" in their time.

Scott said...

Jen - Most people have partied in their past, and the gamble of letting people know almost always pays off. But that one bad apple can spoil the bushel.

magnetbabe said...

Unfortunately that's the current societal climate. Until rather recently, disagreeing about the war has been viewed as unpatriotic and heretic. There is far too little healthy discussion going on at all about almost anything. I see your distain for people who start a conversation with "I hate Bush." As much as I dislike him, us liberals need to recognize that saying that automatically puts people on the defensive. It is far more useful to try to gently convince a person why Bush is an awful president than hoping they'll take our word for it. People taking other people's word for it is what got us in this mess to begin with.

Anyway, sorry to get so political with you on a Monday morning. On a lighter note, hooray for Christmas trees, lights and trains!

Scott said...

MB - No problem, I don't mind the political discussions at all, Monday or no.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

'Mort' is excellent, as is the 'Guard Guards'.

He is a fine author.

Scott said...

It's funny that you mention those two titles, because that and two others are the ones he gave me to read. He mentioned Mort was his favorite, and Guards his second. Coincidentally he is English.

trinamick said...

I find that so much of the time people have the idea that if you disagree with their belief on something, they are compelled to argue it until you agree with them. No disagreeing without being disagreeable or some such rot. There's such a thing as tact, but it seems like a lost art anymore. Politics doesn't interest me enough to argue about. Now the merits of a television show... ;P

Scott said...

Trina - You got that right. Reasonable debate is a skill we don't often learn from our parents, since it's usually their way or the highway. Then you move onto school and get beat up for individuality.

jenbeauty said...

Ok, my spelling is horrid today!! Geez louise...please forgive me Scott.

Scott said...

What am I, an English teacher? Huh? You don't know how many comments I wish I could have taken back because of a missing word or syntax error. By the way, you should have capitalized Louise. Hah! Couldn't resist that one.

Sadie Lou said...

"Life is about the small stuff"

Of course it is and anyone who says otherwise (don't sweat the small stuff) is selling something.

If life was only about the big stuff--we'd forget about the first time our baby slept through the night or the time your dad took you for ice cream, just you and him.

Good post, Scott.

Tee said...

That was nice. It's such a simple pleasure to be on good terms with neighbors.

You said:

"If a single person in a community with a loud voice takes a dislike to you, the wheels of fate will run you over and plant you six feet under. I promise you. Issues concerning religion, sex, drugs, abortion, political leanings can be your undoing. "

That is so true and yet so sad. I'm still "new" to this neighborhood. It's not even been a full year now. We're so lucky that our neighbors tend to all be older retired couples who think we're just darling with our typical 2 kid family.

I love that I live somewhere where I can literally still "borrow" a cup of sugar.

Chloe said...

You're lucky to have neighbors who are also friends. I've lived in the same apartment building for 8 years and don't even know some of my neighbors' names. I try to be friendly, but they just look at me blankly, as though I'm trying to steal something from them.

Scott said...

Sadie - Thanks!

Chloe - Believe me that things are different when you buy a home. Apartment dwelling by definition is transient, and people act accordingly. People in residential neighborhoods sniff you out like bloodhounds.

mr. schprock said...

Great post and great comments! I only have this to add: if you're a Satanist, it's probably not a good idea to bring that up as an ice breaker. Don't ask me how I know that, I just know it. You're better off sticking to sports and the weather.

Scott said...

Mr Schprock - Wow, I wish we would have met before I let that cat out of the bag in my last neighborhood. You sure is intooitive. You could try laughing about it, "Last night I sacrificed my first born child to Satan! Ha ha ha. Oh man, you should have seen your face just then. Where is my son? Oh, he's staying with his biological mother for a while..."

Shesawriter said...

"Issues concerning religion, sex, drugs, abortion, political leanings can be your undoing. So naturally, it's best to keep your mouth shut."

You hit the nail on the head. Once those topics hit the table, folks forget all the wonderful things they liked about it each other, and everything else (the things they have in common) goes to hell as well.

Tanya

Jada's Gigi said...

I'll add my two cents to the masses...letting it all hang out and being "yourself" is not usually the best route...especially in a new situation. Keep it easy for a while...:)Seems funny that we as Americans are all about independence and individuality until it steps on our own toes...lol...then we think everyone should be just like us. Ahhh to be "right". :)

Kathleen said...

I live in an apt. but it only has 8 apts and we all know each other and watch out for each other. Of course, the building right next door is anything but like that - a friend lived there and they would steal packages.

Yes, I try to use the I hate Bush comments only when with others I know feel the same way. ;-)

Last year I had my Kerry bumper sticker on my car way past election day and my aunt followed me one day and jumped all over me. "Don't tell me you voted for him!" I had to leave the room in order not to start a family incident.