Who’s In Your Backyard?

Not the Jersey Shore. Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I grew up at the Jersey Shore. The shore consists of the hundred fifty miles (roughly) from Perth Amboy to Cape May. That’s a lot of space and many shore towns in there. We had the boardwalk and the pier that housed the famous Haunted Mansion, an arcade, fair style games, and a bar at the end of the pier. Pier Pub. Clever enough name I suppose. I rode my bike to the boardwalk almost every day. I didn’t even realize I lived in a shore town even though after every Labor Day the streets emptied out. The shops closed up. As teens, we didn’t have a lot of places to go besides the movies and the parks to drink. In 1987, the pier burned down and my shore town wasn’t the same for many years.

The Coffee King and I bought our first house two miles from the beach. We sold that house during the housing boom in 2005 for a lot more than we paid and bought another house five miles from the beach. We lived down at the shore for fifteen years.

I loved both of my houses. The second house was in a pretty neighborhood with sidewalks, tree-lined streets, and mailboxes at the end of the driveway. The neighbors took care of their lawns, planted flowers in the spring, and parked in their garages. I never saw them. In fact, the people who lived to my right never said a word to us for the six years we lived there until a large tree that sat right on the property line fell into their yard after Hurricane Irene. Then the wife came running over to see who the tree belonged to. (Here’s a tip sweetheart, in NJ it doesn’t matter where the tree sits. Whose property it falls on has the responsibility to remove it.) We didn’t take that approach. We split the cost with her. You know if we wanted to put a fence up around our property she would have insisted that tree belonged to her and she wouldn’t be able to part with it. And on an aside, I used to wave and say hello to her every chance I had to just to aggravate her. Ha!

That town was what some call a backyard community. Kids didn’t play in the front yard because they were at sport practice, dance class, gymnastics, painting, and science club. No one sat on their front porch to watch the neighborhood spill out onto the streets like an old fashioned game of jacks. Including me. I had a deck and a privacy fence on two sides thanks to the people on my left and behind me. (Oh, the guy behind us was in his seventies and he swam naked. My house sat higher than his so I could stand in my kitchen or on my deck and see over the fence. Not pretty. Let me tell you.)

My readers have told me they like the town of Heritage River in A Second Chance House. (By the way, I came up with that town name because a Heritage River is a tree that grows in Tennessee where my fake town is located.) Someone asked, was there a specific town I had based Heritage River on. The answer – no. I wanted Heritage River to be the opposite of a backyard town.

Isn’t the charm of a small town that you know everyone? Of course, some times that’s not so charming. I wanted Heritage River to be a place where you can knock on your neighbor’s door and ask for sugar. Or where you can fall in love. Where the townspeople have your back. Here’s a tiny spoiler: in book three of this series The Essence Of Whiskey and Tea, the hero, J.T. Davies, isn’t very well liked by the people of Heritage River. He has a reputation he can’t shake even though he’s been gone for twenty-four years. He doesn’t appreciate the charm of the town very much, but he does know it’s a good place to finish raising his daughter and his father recently died so no matter what, Heritage River is home. And of course, there’s Savannah.

Heritage River is a place I could live. To me, it’s an extension of the Savage family. A family I would also like to be a part of. Hey, I kind of get to be a part of that family since I’m writing them. I love what I do. And I love my characters and my little southern town. I hope you will too.

I hope you’ll allow me to share a video with you. I held my Book Launch Concert on March 28 where Patrick’s Pub so graciously allowed me to be a part of the open-mic night and do a reading from A Second Chance House. There’s some noise in the background, but I think you’ll enjoy it.





4 thoughts on “Who’s In Your Backyard?

  1. I’d never heard that term before: backyard community. Growing up in the Bronx, I used to watch TV shows like Eight Is Enough and Happy Days and think how great it would be to live in a place like that — a small town. Something suburban and charming. You know — someplace that doesn’t smell of beef patties and bus fumes! But as my mother used to tell me, some things are just a looks-like. This looks like a quaint little town, with all the mom-and-pop shops and manicured lawns… but no one knows each other. That definitely wasn’t the case where I grew up, imperfect though it may have been, and I grown to appreciate that more as I’ve gotten older. (My next blog post will even celebrate once of our local community institutions.)

    As for Heritage River, well… thank God for our fictions, am I right? If we can’t find our vision of paradise, at least we can create it!

    1. I have to tell you, the Coffee King and I bought our first home in a small town community. It was exactly like what you’d think. We purchased the house in 1996. The neighborhood consisted of three streets. The houses were on 75 foot wide lots. I knew almost everyone by name. We had a block party every summer. My next door neighbors were the absolute best. My doorbell would ring and it would be one of the kids asking if we had ketchup because their mom was making bbq sauce. I’d go over every Thursday night to watch Dawson’s Creek with them. Across the street from us was an older woman named Sylvia. Her husband had died one Thanksgiving. One night, when my kids were very little, she called the house and asked if CK could come over and help her fix her seat belt. She was about to go out. The kids were already asleep and I wasn’t home. She came and sat in my house so my husband could go across the street and fix her seat belt. I would push Noodge 1 in the stroller around the block and walk with Jim and Marilyn who lived behind us. They were retired and would walk their dogs every morning. I loved living in that neighborhood. Those places are few and far between, but they do exist.

      1. They do exist, and the trick, I think, is learning to recognize a good thing in the moment it’s happening, as opposed to only realizing in hindsight, “Gee, those were the good old days.” There’s nothing like the special, private thrill of looking around at the people and places that surround you and thinking (to quote Carly Simon), “These are the good old days…”

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