[BY S. SALMI]
The trouble with building a subdivision on a hill is that there’s no privacy. The neighbor up the hill can see every misplaced garden tool in our backyard. By the same token, we have such an unobstructed view into Mikey’s house that we could wave at each other from our kitchen windows. But we never did. We didn’t know the name of Mikey’s mom. Never really talked to her. Or to Mikey. But there he was. Every day.
When we moved in, Mikey was around 13. His favorite pastime was trying to create bonfires in his double-lot backyard. He could have used some instruction because all too often his handiwork engulfed the neighborhood in a thick blanket of smoke. Nobody called the fire department.
Then Mikey turned 15 and, as is the custom in these parts, he got an ATV. For a while his mom would anxiously watch as he developed his driving skills. But soon the hills were alive with the sound of Mikey’s enthusiasm. Dinner-party conversation had to momentarily stop when Mikey shared with us all his latest Steve McQueen act.
Mikey also had a quieter, more exploratory side. For most of a summer he had a telescope on his back porch. I never actually saw him look at the stars but he seemed fascinated with windows — including ours. Eventually we posted a small sign, “Moon Unit 1.” The telescope disappeared shortly thereafter.
Mikey had lots of friends. We might be washing a dish only to look up and see him dancing with a girlfriend or hanging out with the guys. Once he threw a big party on a Thursday night. The bonfire blazed high, beer flowed freely and motorcycles were raced down the main drag well past midnight. Nobody called the cops.
Mikey’s mom could have been a double for the wife on “Malcolm in the Middle.” As soon as she came home from work each day she started yelling. Mikey never did. Once she sent him to live with his dad. That didn’t last. So the yelling returned.
In the summer of 2007 Mikey’s mom apparently had enough. She put the house up for sale and quickly moved away. I could only speculate as to what Mikey is doing today, almost 10 years later. Forest fighter? Dance instructor? ATV mechanic? His teenage interests seemed pretty generic to me.
And Mikey’s mom? I could see her constantly saying how much she looked forward to Mikey leaving home. But when he finally did she was confronted with the emptiness of her own life. So she baked cookies to send off to him.
At least that’s what I imagined today when I looked out the window at what used to be Mikey’s house. Of course, things probably turned out completely different.
This is a slightly revised essay that was originally posted in Olympia Views on December 24, 2011.