Looking Back—But Only for an Instant

Steve Einstein, Two Acre Wood, Sebastopol, California

The other night, I went with the kids to visit some old friends. Their small house was a fixer-upper that they’d spent a good amount of time remodeling and their finished product is absolutely adorable. And my God, the backyard was massive and stunning. I recognized the wave of envy that was invading me. A small, tasteful house with lots of character, a backyard to die for, and neighbors you know and like. ... It looked so perfect.

I’m feeling a bit sad as I pop the kids into the car and we drive off, leaving all that privacy and massive backyard and character behind. A minute later, we pull into our place. Just as we came in, Mary pulls into her spot. She bounces out of her car, greeting us energetically. She’s been to drumming class and is literally more upbeat than usual. A moment later, Tom lopes along with big, ole Dailah. He asks about Malka, who has an injured leg, and then he jokes with the kids about this or that. Holly waves from her kitchen sink, Koby hollers, “Goodnight, Leo!” in the direction of Leo’s house, though he is nowhere to be seen, and then Michael J. appears with a friend.

We make a date for early-morning tennis. Excellent. There’s cackling coming from Louise’s house again. Marty spills out with Louise right behind. I tell them how nice it is to hear laughter again from Louise’s. We all agreed.

We weren’t home two minutes and we’d seen six friends and neighbors and hollered goodnight to another. All that sweetness and quiet privacy of my friends’ house on Neva Street was eons away. I didn’t really care how pathetic a backyard we had. It was fun coming home.