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.





We Live in Mayberry

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View from Mayberry.

My hubby and I have lived in five places since we were first married. I think moving is a hobby for us. A weird one, but  a hobby none the less. Needless to say, I’ve had lots of neighbors. Our second apartment was the bottom half a two-story house. The houses on the street were no more than a driveway’s width apart. We lived next door to a family. A family that should have been on the Jerry Springer show. There were the parents, and their two children. Their one teenage daughter decided she wanted to have a family of her own so she had a baby and the baby’s teenage daddy lived in the house too. This family believed in communicating with each other. A lovely quality all families should practice. However, they did their communicating on the front lawn. It was no surprise to find them outside screaming down the street to each other when I pulled up after a long day at work. I would sit in my car and wait for them to go back inside. It was rude to interrupt and who knew if anyone was packing a gun.

I’ve also had wonderful neighbors. When we purchased our first house an adorable family knocked on our door. The mom held her sweet little boy with bouncy platinum curls, the dad stood alongside his two cute girls, twelve and eight. They baked brownies. Over the years we borrowed sugar, shared food, and hung out on a Thursday nights watching television. You could count on them to keep an eye on your house, your kids, and you. I was very sad to move away from them.

Moving to the country, two houses later, was a bit of a shocker for me. You can read a little about it here. But I have to tell you, we struck gold with our neighbors. It shouldn’t happen twice, but somehow it did. Recently, Noodge 1 locked himself and the puppy out of the house when no one was home. He went across the street to the neighbors to use the phone and wait for us to return. The puppy and the neighbor’s three kids, 7, 6, and 4, had a blast running around the yard together. More recently, our house alarm went off while Noodge 2 was home with the puppy. The police came, it was a three ring circus, but another neighbor sent me a text. “I drove by and saw you talking to the police. You looked okay, but I wanted to double check. Let me know if you need anything.”

If the weather is bad and I’m late getting home for the bus I can ask someone to grab my Noodges and drop them at the house. And I often do the same for them. The bus stop is a meeting ground to say hello, how are you, what’s new? We gather in each other’s yards when hot air balloons touch down on our street. We wave to each other as we pass by in our cars. We moved to Mayberry. Now all I need is Andy to come walking up and Aunt Bea to make a homemade pie.

How about you? What are your neighbors like?