The Next Door House

by Mrs. Molesworth
Chicago, M.A. Donohue & Company
Printers and Binders
407-429 Dearborn Street, n.d.

This is another book in my collection with embossed covers. I haven't read it, and as I was thumbing through the first chapter just now it looked pretty tedious, so expect I never shall. I am also suspicious of publications with no dates (though my guess it was circa 1920) and with authors who do not wish their first name mentioned. Also, what kind of name is "Mrs. Molesworth" anyway? It all makes me wonder.

The other reason I plan to never read it is because of the title. "The Next Door House" rings ominous to me, because of a personal experience I once had. My friend Ellen and I and a third person rented a three-bedroom Victorian house on State Street in Northampton, Massachusetts. We flipped a coin for the honor of first choice in room selection and I won, which is something that rarely happens to me. So, I was able to pick the best room, which was a large room with lots of windows in the front of the house.

We proceeded to move in, or were in process of moving in. This meant kind of living there but waiting for the gas, telephone, and utilities to be turned on. This house was actually part of three large apartments in an old Victorian style row house. As we were moving in we learned that the apartment next to us had 5 or 6 guys living there. New York city was attempting to file bankruptcy and they had been laid off. So, here they were collecting unemployment and living in the "country." The third apartment also had 3-4 men. These guys were much different, and were all self proclaimed "radical economists" in graduate school in the economics department at UMass.

We were an interesting array of neighbors, and exchanged friendly hellos and small talk since we all seemed to moving in about the same time. My concern at the time was job hunting and I had received notice at my parents house that I was to report for an interview within a couple days of signing the lease for this apartment. The problem was there was no hot water in the house, not until the day after the interview. So, I politely asked Tommy, next door, if I might borrow a hot shower from them.

Thinking of this now, its difficult to imagine going over to ANY of my neighbors asking to borrow their shower, but thats youth for you. Tommy of course was nonplussed and didn't mind me popping over at all, so the next morning there I was towel, soap and accessories at hand. It was very early in the morning, at least in those days, about 8 or so, and there I was showering happily. I finished, shut off the water and stepped out to towel dry when the bathroom door opened and in walked one of Tommy's roommates, half asleep. He was a dark haired, good looking man, as naked as I was. I had seen him around a couple of times, but hadn't met him yet. He took one look at me, angrily exclaimed "Oh, shit!" and in an instant had slammed the door and left the room. I continued about my business, then went to the interview where, all that boldness regarding the shower in the home of a stranger didn't pay off. I didn't get the job.

What happened after that sometimes is very fuzzy to me, and someday I'll sit down with Ellen, who has a mind like a steel trap, and try to make sense of it all. The following day the naked-shower-man stopped over the house, and before I knew it we were inseparable. I learned his name was Charlie. We fell in love that summer. By the end of the summer we were living together and the following June we were married, a scant year from our meeting in the bathroom. Of course, after we married then we really got to know each other and that sent us on a downhill spiral. But I did manage to have a wonderful son from that otherwise unhappy liaison.

Which essentially brings me to the point. This being that marrying the boy (or girl) next door isn't always the wisest choice, and that Robert Frost really did have the right idea. "Good fences do make good neighbors."

© Laurel O'Donnell
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