Their Neighborhood

Mike McGough
October 2021

The nine houses in this cul-de-sac were the first nine built in what was planned to be a massive development.   Shortly after these initial nine were completed, there were some long and protracted legal complications over zoning and some questions about how the property had been purchased out of a trust.  To say the least it will be years until any more are built. 

These nine houses were the different models the developer was offering.  They were all completed shortly after the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and they were all sold within six months.  Even though it is a very small neighborhood, it has a remarkable degree of diversity, almost as though someone had willfully planned to demonstrate that anyone and everyone was welcome in their neighborhood. 

There was a remarkable degree of get-along in their neighborhood for several years.  Because they live several miles from the nearest town in any direction, neighbors routinely shopped for each other, picked up mail at the post office, and dropped off laundry at the cleaners.   When you saw a red gas can sitting in the driveway of the first house next to the main road, that was your sign that if you needed gas for a mower or snow blower, all you had to do was drop your can off by noon, put a few bucks with it, and full cans would be there by the time you came home from work.  Progressive dinners around holidays were always fun gatherings. One year they did a Thanksgiving feast that was epic, a real coming together of people who cared about each other.

Then it happened.  A presidential election fractured the peace in their neighborhood.  Political yard signs went up and when they did, everyone publicly placed themselves somewhere on the contemporary political spectrum.  Politics was seldom if ever a topic of conversation, let alone debated in their neighborhood.  Their debates were more the F150 vs Dodge Ram and Pirates vs Phillies type. 

The campaign was the beginning of a rough time in their neighborhood.  It started off as joking and chiding, but it quickly became caustic and divisive.  The second round of political yards signs didn’t support one candidate over another, but instead took jabs at anyone who supported a particular candidate.   The 4th of July picnic was civil, but just barely.  The Labor Day picnic never happened.  Lines had been drawn, and it became clear early on that these were some pretty firm lines.  You either were a supporter or you were not. 

Even though the yard signs were beginning to fade a bit, the sentiments behind them were not.  It was polarizing.  With no understanding or appreciation for other perspectives, their neighborhood was divided.  Unlike any other presidential election any of them could recall, this one really separated them, and the divide was growing.  As one political theorist put it, “This is a freak event of political science.”

When Covid arrived, the divide deepened.  Snide comments gave way to caustic attacks, which in time gave way to anger-driven outbursts about how anyone could be so blind or how you could possibly believe such utter nonsense.  Both sides were prepared to serve up their best insults on a moment’s notice, that was among those who were still speaking to anyone.

Then it happened.  The weatherman called it a freak of meteorological science.  A tornado touched down in their neighborhood.  Two of the houses suffered massive damage and were beyond repair. Four more were salvageable, but would need extensive work, and three had shingles and siding ripped off, but were still livable.  All the yard signs were gone--blown to God knows where.  Nobody went looking for them.

As everyone returned from work that day, their neighborhood gathered in the street.  There were in equal measure tears and words of comfort.  A retired couple, whose house was hit but livable, had prepared enough food for everyone to have supper.   As soon as the twister passed, two of the families had gone and helped to gather personal items from the two houses that had been severely damaged.   They had it all drying out on their garage floors.  Three of the families had dogs.  All three were found.  Arrangements were made for everyone to have a place to sleep that night.  It was tight, but everyone got some much-needed rest. 

Rebuilding has been slow due to current material shortages, but the work continues.  They’re planning a Thanksgiving dinner.  Their neighborhood was damaged, but it wasn’t destroyed. 

Whether other houses are built in their neighborhood or not, these folks and their neighborhood are solid.  A freak event of political science taught them a lesson about themselves.  A freak event of metrological science taught then a lesson about each other.