Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dear Charlie:

I can sometimes be a bit ambivalent about my neighbors. Most of the time, I think they're pretty decent people genuinely trying to be helpful, but other times, they're a dight too nosey for my piece of mind. I was raised in the country, see -- the closest "neighbor" was probably a mile away in any given direction -- so I'm not real patient with busybody lookie-loo rubberneckers who have nothing better to do than stick their faces in other people's business just by looking out their windows or sitting on their porches.

Not that I have any secrets, mind you. Friends will tell you that I'm an open book. I just think the world would be a lot better place if people didn't focus so much on other people's lives. Mind your own, and maybe you won't have time to meddle with others, right?

But today, I find myself in genuine charity with my neighbors. You see, the folks directly to my right installed a big ol' flagpole last fall, but I was beginning to think they weren't planning to do anything with it. Until today.

Today, just as I was sitting down with a fresh soft pretzel (I made a batch yesterday and quickly discerned that six wasn't enough to take to work tomorrow...especially since I'd eaten two and was down to four) and a Bud Lite and happened to look outside and there...oh, there....

My neighbors are Old. Now, I'm 32, so I'm stepping up to the Old plate, but they're Retired Old. Probably in their late sixties or early seventies. Still young enough to be feisty (and nosey, of course), but old enough to not have much to do but mow their yards and watch their youngish, single neighbor chick come and go with occasional disapproval.

They really don't like that I'm single and pretty much refuse to date. Thankfully, none of them have actually tried to set me up with anyone, but I'm sure the idea has crossed their long-married minds. Heh.

But today, they and the also-elderly couple across the street -- the old guy likes to yell at people who drive through the neighborhood too fast for his sensibilities, and his idea of "too fast" is anyone going more than, say, walking speed -- are hanging up a beautifully weathered Old Glory and raising it up the flagpole. They're being careful to see that it doesn't touch the ground in any way, which is why all four of them are in on it.

I can't help myself. I was brought up right. I stepped out onto my porch and saluted the Colors as they were raised.

The little old lady from across the street sees me and gives me a rare smile (I think she's the one most bothered by my determinedly single state).

"God bless America," she says, loud enough for probably the whole neighborhood to hear.

"Amen," I reply, equally loud.

The men saluted and we women put our hands over our hearts as the breeze caught the flag at the top. I felt like belting out the national anthem, I tell you.

"That's my father's flag," the guy next door murmurs softly as he stares up. This is the man who hasn't said more than two words to me that weren't about me mowing my lawn. "The one they sent us from off his grave."

"It's beautiful," I say, and I mean it. He gives me a quick look to be sure, but I definitely mean it.


"Don't mention it."

We watch the flag flap a little, getting that good feeling deep in our chests, and then we go our separate ways. I can't help taking little peeks out the door every now and then, though, to watch that flag fly. It's a good flag. Every feature has a meaning. And I think of my neighbor's father, a man I never met and never will but a man I feel grateful to, nonetheless.

And I feel a little closer to my sometimes troublesome neighbors, to the crotchety old guy who sometimes hollers that hoarse old-man shout at people driving up and down our street, to the other crotchety old guy who reminds me every chance he gets that if I need help starting the old lawn mower, just give him a shout -- hint, hint, it's time to mow your lawn, youngish single chick, before a cow could hide in it without crouching down.

And then I came back inside and drank my American beer and ate my Bavarian soft pretzel and thought about finishing mowing the back half of my lawn when it cools off later. I probably will. I had a migraine Friday and yesterday, but it's down to a dull roar today. I can probably do it without too much ringing in the ol' ears.

And every now and then, while I'm mowing, I'll look up at that beautiful old flag and smile, no matter how sweaty and out-of-breath I get shoving around the rackety old lawn mower. Because no matter how bad things get, I'm proud to live in a country where I can choose to be a youngish single chick and still be a property owner. Proud to live among people who are still proud of our heritage. Proud to be an American.

Just like in that old Lee Greenwood song.


Oh, yeah. And the pretzels are frackin fantastic. Better than anything you could buy at the mall. Follow the directions exactly, and you absolutely cannot fail to drool helplessly at the scent and sight as they come out of the oven. And then, of course, at the taste. Amazingly good recipe.

I may have to have another. With another beer, because the tastes are so complimentary. I mean, I'm probably mowing the lawn this evening, so it's not like I won't work it off.

*drools helplessly*


At 6:17 PM, Blogger writtenwyrdd said...

Beg to differ: 32 is NOT old. Trust me, you're not old or even middle aged until you catch yourself railing against "young people these days" or saying the equivalent of "back in my day" about something your are grousing over. It's rather horrifying to catch yourself at it, actually. And yet such things keep popping out of my mouth.

I gave up on dating at 38 and it was well worth it. I have plenty of time to do the things I like, such as reading and writing and oh little things like getting my home improvement projects done.

What a peaceful ten years it's been, all things considered.

I wish I could have one of your pretzels with a nice mug of stout. Mmmm...

At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, patriotism. A beautiful thing really.

I have to agree with writtenwyrdd, 32 is so not old. My mom's in her 40's, just got a nose ring and I still think of her as an older sister (with respect, since my actual older sister likes to believe she's my mother, oi).

...Though I'm starting to wonder if its odd that I have said things like "young people these days" considering my own age. *sheepishg* I like to pretend I'm not apart of my generation, it scares them off.

At 9:35 PM, Blogger GutterBall said...

Oh, I've had my fair share of "kids these days!" and "when I was a kid" moments. Oi, do I ever.

Of course, I come from a small town, so sometimes I feel a lot older than I really am, just because it seems to me that these "city" kids are so damn spoiled. Does that sound terrible? Can't help it. It makes them seem so much younger than I ever was.

Heh. And then I remember that I still squee over WWE wrestling, football, and DragonBall Z. So maybe I'm more a little kid than any of them will ever be. Ha!

As for the pretzels, they were awesome, and I wish I could send you some, but they're best fresh from the oven. Even nuking them for a few seconds doesn't quite bring back that yummy perfect soft bread thing.

As for stout, I can drink one if I'm in the mood, but I usually stick to Bud Lite or Miller Genuine Draft. Occasionally Bud Select. Always makes me want to grill, though.


At 5:33 PM, Anonymous Pesh said...

You sooo have to send me the recipe.

If you know what's good for you.

Remember, I'm a total Pesh.

At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Pesh said...

The recipe for the pretzels, not the beer. -_-

At 11:28 PM, Blogger GutterBall said...

Damn. I was gonna start measuring out hops. Wretched woman.

As for the recipe, it's linked in the post. I try not to hoard recipes I love this much. I mean, seriously. If I hoard the recipe, I'm the one that's gonna have to make them all, right?


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