I had a neighbor who would mow his lawn wearing pajamas. Every Saturday morning he’d be out in his light-blue, long-sleeved pajama set and walking from one side of the yard to the other, making horizontal lines with the mower. It was like clockwork. He wouldn’t do it too early when people were sleeping but he wouldn’t do it too late to let people sleep in either. And the pajama custom never changed. He never wore anything else while trimming the lawn, and it didn’t occur to any of us to question it.
The constant drone of the mower was as much a staple of Saturday mornings as pancakes and cartoons for kids. With his head down, he’d plod along until the job was done and be back in his house before the noon sun got hot. Since our backyards lined up to each other, I would watch him as I washed dishes and didn’t think anything of it until all these years later, when I learned of “reality shows” on TV. This generation actually believes they created it. The nerve.
Reality shows have been the highlighted entertainment of people’s lives long before TV was even invented. The original shows were captured by looking out our windows and sitting on our front steps watching the world go by. We knew when someone got a new car, when a kid fell off his bike, when teenagers came home after curfew, which couples fought as they put up Christmas lights and plastic snowmen, who had relatives visiting, and who was having a party we weren’t invited to. Everything was seen by everyone. Everyone’s business was considered interesting.
That’s why when the concept of “neighborhood watch” was first introduced, it made me laugh out loud. We all knew who had left for their summer vacations and how long they’d be gone. Do you think those newspapers just magically disappeared? We picked up our neighbor’s newspaper and mail, in addition to hauling out their trashcan on garbage day. We operated like a community of ants in a colony, crawling over each other’s business without giving it a thought.
But times changed, and neighbors moved in and out. We all began to politely nod to each other from across the street rather than go over and talk. But the one thing that has remained the same is peeking out our windows to catch the commotion and watch any activity for our daily entertainment. The curiosity of what someone else is doing hasn’t gone away. A TV show won’t replace what’s right outside my front door.
Though I’ve moved homes, I still find myself looking out the kitchen window every Saturday morning in hopes of spotting a blue pair of pajamas, and every time I am a little disappointed when I don’t see it. My new neighbor wears shorts and a T-shirt. The nerve. He sees me watching and I wave. Maybe I’ll bring him a pancake.