Sometimes, to relieve stress, I write fantasy letters to the editor. I'm so very tempted to send this one in, but at least I thought I'd share it with you.
Suisan Whatchmacallit, Mrs.
123 Windsor Drive
May 15, 2006
I am writing to thank you for your second anonymous letter, delivered to my mailbox about a month ago. Being an admirer of Jane Austen, I must say that I am delighted to receive letters of any sort. Since I have moved into the neighborhood, I have not received correspondence from any of my neighbors, excepting you, and you have honored me with two! Since you have neglected to supply your return address, and instead have coyly remained anonymous, both in letter and in address, I find that the only way to continue our correspondence is through the papers. Perhaps one day you might see your way clear to revealing your identity.
It seems from the tone of your letters that you are quite distressed. I apologize sincerely for any part I may have played in your distress. Over the years, I have found that the best way to soothe differences is to discuss them over food, and I would like to invite you and me to do this at your earliest convenience. Please do not stand on false ceremony; I love visitors. I am at home most afternoons; that is to say, "at home" in the Georgian sense of the word, in that I am available to receive visitors at that time. Please forgive us, but we had to let James the Footman leave, with excellent references, to take care of his aged mother in Swansea. The present Hall Boy, Hobbes, is country-bred and has not risen to the rank of Footman as he cannot learn the task of simply placing the calling card on the silver salver. Instead he leaps on the furniture and announces visitors loudly, sometimes using a barking tone. He is something of a project. We do have a doorbell, nonetheless, and I would be pleased to meet you at any time should you wish to walk up my front steps and press the button. You already have the address.
In both letters you have expressed that I am, well, a disappointment to the neighborhood. For that I apologize. As homes sell, and new families move in, neighbors change. As you pointed out, I am not, unlike my former neighbor, on the back hillside every day working on the landscape. I think I supposed that the bushes were capable of growing new leaves all on their own without my oversight, but apparently I was misinformed.
The previous owner of my former house was a nonagenarian woman who was fond of hand-painting "No Parking" signs for Saturday afternoon displays, throwing peanuts out her front window, and inviting the young neighborhood children over for a sample of hard candy and an invigorating glass of champagne on Sunday afternoons. She was a fixture in that neighborhood, and when we moved in, we were not able to live up to her reputation. I do not know if this caused sorrow or distress in that neighborhood, but I do know the neighborhood changed both when we arrived and after we left. I am truly sorry that I have not been able to live up to your standards, built upon the reputation of the former owners of this house either. I could start throwing peanuts out my front window, but since my former neighborhood advised me that it would not be necessary then, I must assume that it would not suffice now.
In your most recent letter you noted the comings and goings of our exterminator along with a comment on the cleanliness of the house which demands such a visit. Really, you do take such a careful interest in the workmen! Thank you! You'll be relieved to learn that he visits every month. His name is John, and he's quite a nice fellow. Because of his services, the ant parades from the back hillside into the house have ceased.
You've also commented that not only would you like to help me find a house out of town, (although being the coy duck you are, it is hard to take you up on your offer of assistance) but also that you are planning to report me to the City. I appreciate your ongoing concern for our welfare, and would love to talk to the City on any one of a variety of topics, but admit to being unclear as to what you would like to report me for. Since it is clear that the principal hope of your continued happiness is dependent upon the state of my front yard, I would love to invite you to my house so that we may talk, over a cup of tea perhaps, about how you would like to finance this schedule of home improvements, as our bank account is currently devoted to supporting my husband's business. (We just celebrated its first anniversary—I'm sure you are as excited as we are!)
One of the things I still miss about the house formerly occupied by the peanut-tossing champagne aficionado, was the neighborhood in which it sat. Every year for over twenty years, that block has held a Fourth of July block party, complete with Bike Decorating Competitions, a Children under Ten Parade, Egg Toss and Watermelon-Seed Spitting Competitions, a day-long Volleyball Tournament, and a yearly VIP award, awarded to the neighbor who has "demonstrated the most verve." The stated purpose behind the party was to share information about Neighborhood Earthquake Preparedness; we passed out sign-up sheets and collected donations for communal First Aid Kits and Potable Water Containers. We truly enjoyed each other's company and were, according to one wit, pathologically friendly.
I see that I have somehow deeply distressed you by joining your neighborhood. That was never my intent. In the interest of mending fences (which, by the way, has hit the top of my to-do list since I followed your advice in your first letter and cut down the weeds—apparently they were holding up a section of fence), I would like to offer that if the Windsor neighborhood is interested in holding a pot-luck where we could meet, we could perhaps, start the process of Neighborhood Earthquake Preparedness and begin to be friendlier with each other.
Any other neighbors who happen along this letter and are interested in party-planning or neighborhood preparedness are also invited to visit (please ignore Hobbes if you can), to call, or to write.
Suisan W., Mrs.