There's only one car next door I remarked to my wife. I haven't seen the kids around for a while.
It was the end of school holidays so I assumed that perhaps they'd extended their stay away. The weather had been terrible and now, as the school term began again, suddenly, it was clear skies. I'd have extended my leave if I'd had the option too.
At the end of another week the silence continued. There were glimpses of a car entering and leaving and occasionally the dog returning from a morning walk. There were moments of familiarity. But there was no noise. No lights in the kids bedroom, no laughter. The pool failed to erupt with squeals and games each afternoon. There was no constant flow of cars dropping and picking up kids. It was an absence of laughter. The house seemed to have died.
I'm not one to give houses personalities but when the rhythm stops it feels like a loss. This was exacerbated by the relocation of our other neighbour of more than ten years, and a close friend, to a distant suburb. There was a mourning feel to the neighbourhood.
Yesterday as I pulled up outside my house my disappeared neighbour was stepping from her car. She'd parked on the other side of the street outside her own house. I'd never seen her do that before. Hi. I called. Havent seen you for a while. And then she began to cry. And some of the tale tumbled out amidst apologies for the tears and some embarrassment. I moved out in May she informed me.
Oh my god. This was the middle of October and it had taken that long for the penny to drop. I felt stupid. Admittedly we had been overseas for June and July but three months, five months? How could that happen?
When was I going to ask? If ever? Was it any of my business? Perhaps not. But if neighbourhoods have any life., any real sense of community when and how do we share these stories. How do we make sense of them without being intrusive. Without it being gossip.
The boys visit three or four nights a week. But something vital has gone from our street.
My house mourns that loss.