0719 PV Headshot Jean Shriver.JPG

It’s 10 p.m. and very dark outside. The moon trickles a little light in through my second-floor bedroom window.

Only one light shows in the blackness. It’s the house across the gully. It's the only house I can see.   

I remember the first time I saw this house where I now live. I’d stopped into a real estate office to see a friend who said, “I’m busy, but Tom is going out on an appraisal team with some young people. You should tag along.”

“Why?” I asked, “I’m not in real estate.”

“Just go,” she answered, giving me a gentle shove. So I did.

We drove through the Portuguese Bend gates and then uphill until we came to the gates that led to this old house, our destination. The house loomed up in front of us, a large structure Italian in style with a red tile roof. Lovely, I thought.

We all piled out and started circling the house noting the old hedges and overgrown garden. The young people huddled together, wide-eyed and silent.

One finally whispered, “You can only see one house from here.”

“Spooky” agreed her friend.

I was hugging myself in silence and thinking that not being able to see your neighbors would be a wonderful way to live.

Now, at the time, my neighbors were not bad people. It's just that they were living there cheek by jowl on either side of me.  I couldn’t think of anything nicer than gazing at a view of nothing but hills covered with greenery.

I barely listened to what the real estate expert was saying about the house. I was frantically calculating how much a house like this would cost and how we could possible buy it.

The owner, when I tracked him down, hemmed and hawed and wouldn’t commit to selling his home.

Finally I gave him a sealed bid for the amount that Tom, the appraiser, had said the house was worth. The owner waited three years before he phoned me to say, “If you’re ready to buy,I’m ready to sell.”

That was some thirty-odd years ago.

Our son and wife joined us after a while occupying quarters separate from ours but under the same roof.

Our youngest grandson came here when he was one-day old and lived here until he left for New York a few months ago at the age of 25.   

So here I am looking at the light in the window of my only neighbors. 

She and her husband have had health challenges this year, so I hope they are not up late dealing with some crisis. I’d like to think they are cozily watching TV together in the family room.

If I were gazing at a sea of twinkling lights, I wouldn’t worry about what all those people were doing, whether they were well and happy and looking forward to the morning’s light. But with only one house in view, it becomes personal. 

You know who they are and what troubles they are facing. You want to send them encouragement and let them know you are wishing them well.  

So I look out my window and worry.

An owl flaps by my window with a harsh cry. I worry more.

And now ... ah, their light just went out. It’s all dark over there. No light showing through the trees, only the white light of the moon.

I relax.

They’ve gone to bed. And I should go to bed, too. Goodnight.

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