Saturday, April 15, 2006

Gee Gee and Paw Paw

Once upon a time, back in the days when Duloc Manor was little more than a sandy lot spotted with deer tracks, my husband and I would try to imagine what our little cul de sac would someday become. We have vivid imaginations, but I don't think either of us could have ever pictured the neat little neighborhood that would spring up around the "croquet field" park or the neighbors who would someday populate our world.

When we bought our house, we had a choice between two units. Triplexes have two mirror-image units on the end and a larger unit in the middle. We had already ruled out the middle because even though it had an extra bedroom, I am a sunlight fanatic and didn't like the fact that it only had two outside walls. Thus, we were left to choose between the right- and left-hand sides.

Originally we chose the right-hand unit because it had a larger side lot. In Celebration, many homes are so close that you could reach out a side window and shake hands with your next-door neighbor as they reach out theirs. But due to the curve of the property, there was a vast space between the right-hand unit and the house next door. Even though it wasn't built yet, the space was plainly visible on the plans. Also, due to the placement of the garage, the backyard would be longer.

But somehow we weren't quite sure of our choice. Even though the left-hand unit would be right up next to the neighbors, that didn't really bother me. I had grown up in Chicago, where rows of brick bungalows are routinely placed inches apart. I liked the fact that the left side would have a single garage vs. a shared building for the middle and right-hand units. Then we discovered that the left unit would have french doors to close off the front room, while it would be an open space in the other. I liked the idea of being able to close it; if we got a futon, it would make a nice guest room with a little privacy. The decision was made...I contacted the builder and flip-flopped our choice.

Over the weeks and months of construction, we visited the burgeoning Duloc Manor as often as we could. In Celebration, it's a tradition for the builder to erect a "Sold" sign listing the names of the buyers. My husband wouldn't let me put anything "cute" on ours, but people often choose to put nicknames or other amusing appellations. One day I noticed the sign on the house next door, which boldly declared "Gee Gee and Paw Paw." Yikes! What on Earth could a Gee Gee and a Paw Paw be? I couldn't help but picture a doddering old couple making their way shakily onto the front porch to wave their canes and holler at us whippersnappers for causing a ruckus. I never could have imagined the real Gee Gee and Paw Paw or that fact that in a couple of years we'd be out partying with them at Buca di Beppo in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary.

Fast forward to the present day...Duloc Manor is long since built and has lost that "model home" look and new construction smell. It's looking rather lived-in, which is a nice way of saying that cat hair tumbleweeds float lazily across the floor and we're constantly scrubbing cat barf off the carpet.

We have become quite close to Gee Gee and Paw Paw, who are indeed older in chronological years but who have been known to wear me out. I've visited Epcot with them, and they ran me into the ground! They're always on the go, in the center of a whirlwind of activity...everything from watching their granddaughter ride in horseshows to jetting off to England. They often stop by for a cup of coffee, or we pop over to their place for homemade waffles. It's the quintessential Celebration, with friendly neighbors knocking on the back door or gathering to chat on front porches.

This year was their 50th wedding anniversary, and their daughter was planning a surprise family get-together at Buca Di Beppo (an Italian restaurant geared towards large groups). She invited us to attend, since they've all but adopted us. Unfortunately, I didn't tell my husband that it was a surprise, so he nearly let the cat out of the bag.

We were chatting in the backyard, and our neighbor said, "Maybe we can go to the Indian restaurant buffet on Sunday." Hubby piped up, "Oh, no, that's Buca day!"

"Uh, DEAR," I snapped, shooting him a death look, "I think it's time to water the flowers in front."

"What's Buca?" asked our neighbor.

"I think it's time to water those flowers NOW!" I said a little more forcefully...thankfully, light dawned in hubby's eyes and he refrained from further comment, even though she asked, "What's Buca?" once again.

Later in the week, while my husband was out of town, my neighbor stopped by to chat about Sunday. "I know we're doing something," she said, "and I want to get a photographer, but my daughter won't tell me where we're going."

"Uh, yeah, sure," I said, standing in the family room with my arms crossed in a posture of body language that subtly stated, "It's time for you to leave now."

"You mentioned you have a friend who's a photogapher."

"Oh yeah. Well, give me your daugher's phone number and I can talk to her about it." (Inside, I was feeling paranoid. Had my husband's Buca comment tipped her off? Was she trying to get more information out of me? How the heck was I going to get rid of her before she asked me outright?)

Having picked up on my uncharacteristically inhospitable attitude, she finally retreated. Little did I know that she had tried to contact her daughter, who was also avoiding her so she wouldn't be tempted to spill the secret! Even though Gee Gee and Paw Paw knew they were going to some type of dinner, there were going to be a few "surprise" guests, including a grandson just home from the military and their surrogate "mom." Their daughter was afraid that she wouldn't be able to keep it to herself for much longer, so she wouldn't return their phone calls.

On the appointed day, hubby and I were out in the hot tub when our neighbors piled into their car to head to the restaurant (they had directions but still didn't know full details). We waved goodbye until they were out of sight, then hustled out of the tub and ran upstairs to shower and change.

We had directions from Mapquest that got us there quickly and expediently, but our neighbors had gotten lost. Ironically, they arrived at the exact same moment as we did...and cut me off in order to grab the sole remaining parking spot in the main lot! My husband laughed as the car cut in and said, "Oh, look, that's them!" Since they had no idea that we were coming, they hadn't recognized Canyonero. We later learned that Paw Paw had muttered, "Sorry, buddy, but I need that spot!" After getting lost and burning up time searching for the restaurant, he didn't want to spend any more time searching for a spot.

We parked in the back and caught up with them at the entrance...the look on their faces was priceless! "Hey, weren't you just in the hot tub?!" they exclaimed. Now I could finally explain while I'd nearly slugged my husband on that fateful day when he was babbling about Buca and why I was so unfriendly when my poor neighbor had tried to visit.

Soon we were all gathered inside, enjoying a champagne toast, house wine, and a variety of delicious Italian dishes while listening to amusing tales of the half century that Gee Gee and Paw Paw had spent together. As we tucked into our meal, I couldn't help but think back to those pre-construction days when I had wondered what life in Celebration would be like. Would we have a good street? Good neighbors? Had we made the right choice in picking our unit? Little did I know that we had made the best choice possible and that not too far in the future we'd be partying with some of the very best neighbors in the whole town.

Click here for my Life Coaching website.

Learn more about Celebration on my website:

No comments: