Thursday, July 6, 2017

New Neighbors

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By: Meghan K.

 Moving across the country is never a particularly enjoyable experience, but when you have to cope with both a location change and a change in climate, it just adds a new dynamic of difficult.
Michigan’s weather was pretty mild. I mean, sure, we had a fair bit of snow in the winter and it was reasonably warm in the summer, but it was nothing compared to the weather in Georgia. From the moment, I got out of the car in Atlanta and stepped out onto my new street, I knew I wasn’t going to like this new city.
It was early June when we finally moved into our new house in the suburbs, and early June in this town apparently means jungle-like heat and humidity. Right away, I could feel the beads sweat forming on my forehead and my back. I tried to wipe it away, but more appeared. I gave up; apparently not being sweaty was a lost cause.
The new house was almost unpleasantly cold after the heat of the outdoors. Dad had gushed about how the new place had air-conditioning as soon as he’d told us we were moving, and though I’d rolled my eyes at the time, I was now certain that I’d judged him a little too soon. In fact, I was starting to wonder if it was possible to survive down here without air-conditioning.
The rest of the first day was pretty uneventful, until Dad suggested we eat dinner (takeout, as usual since we had been traveling and the only thing we could have, seeing as most of our stuff was still in boxes) on the back deck. This seemed like a slightly questionable idea, considering how hot and humid it was outside, but I didn’t argue—surely the temperatures dropped the later into the evening, right?
Wrong. It was almost like the day was trying to have its last hurrah, the heat and humidity fighting for one last hour of torture. In no more than five minutes, I was nearly drenched with sweat again. It was awful.
And then there were the mosquitos.
When I went to bed that night, I found myself covered in little red bumps. We had mosquitos in Michigan, yeah, but I never really got more than three or four bites at the most; there were at least ten on my legs and my arms were the same. It took all my self-control not to claw my skin off before I fell asleep.
Overall, my first night in my new house was not a good one. The mosquito bites were bad enough, but back in my room in Michigan, I kept my window open and became comfortable with the white noise. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to do that in Atlanta, especially on a hot, humid night in June. I tried shutting the window and turning on my ceiling fan, but between that and the air conditioning, my room quickly became too cold for comfort, and I had to turn the fan off.
The next morning, I got up late. My two brothers and my dad were sitting at the table, finishing breakfast, and my mom had already left for work, so I sat down at the table and poured myself the last of the cereal; when you get up later than my brothers, you pay for it in the size of your breakfast.
 “Calista,” said my dad, “why don’t you go outside after you’re dressed and get the last of our stuff out of the van? We’re going to start unpacking today while Mom’s at work.”
“Okay,” I agreed, trying to hide how much the idea of going outside made me shudder.
“Thanks,” my dad said brightly, setting down his coffee and smiling. “You’ve been a really good sport over the course of this move.”
I shrugged and went back to eating my cereal.
15-minutes later, I was outside, pulling boxes out of the back of our minivan. Normally, my brothers and my dad would’ve helped me, but they were already starting to unpack the boxes inside. I suspect my dad has always been aware of my lack of enthusiasm for this move, and I think leaving me to unload the boxes from the minivan was his way of giving me time to process. I did appreciate it; he doesn’t always know what do with a daughter, but he tries.
“Need help?”
A voice from behind me startled me. I whirled around and there was a girl standing at the end of my driveway, electric pink hair tied up in pigtails, her face bearing a lopsided grin.
I must’ve been staring at her like a complete idiot, because she walked up and as soon as I put the boxes down, she extended a hand for me to shake.
“Reese Halloran,” she says brightly. “I live across the street.”
“Calista Finch,” I replied. “I just moved in.”
“I know. We saw you arrive last night, but my parents made me wait until today to come over; something about travel being exhausting.” She smiled a little wider. “Where’re y’all from?”
“Michigan,” I replied.  “Sterling Heights; little suburb outside of Detroit.”
“Cool.” Reese gestured to the boxes and added, “Do you want me to get some of these? They look like an awful lot for one person.”
“That’d be great.” I picked up a stack of boxes. “We’re just taking them inside; they don’t go anywhere in particular yet.”
Reese picked up a stack of three boxes and followed me into the house, all the while chatting away as if we’d known each other forever.
“Do you have any siblings?” she asked.
“An older brother and a twin brother,” I replied. “Nicholas is 17 and Perry’s 16, same as me. You?”
“Three: Troy and Dawson are twins, they’re both 18; and then there’s Piper, and she’s 14.
“So, my moms are definitely going to want to meet you,” she continued. “Mama always makes muffins for new neighbors; it’s kinda weird, but we’re the unofficial welcome wagon of the neighborhood. Mum makes the best barbecue. Do you like corn on the cob? Mum’s corn on the cob is brilliant and we have a pool in the backyard if you ever want to come over and swim. We just put it in and there’s a diving board and everything; it was Mama’s idea. Say, do you guys maybe want to come over tonight? Mum’s making ribs.”
“My dad loves barbecue; actually, my brothers do too. He’d probably be super excited.”
“Super excited about what?” My dad seemed to appear out from behind a wall of boxes.
“Hi, Mr. Finch,” said Reese, setting down the boxes, striding confidently up to my dad, and shaking his hand with the easy-breezy attitude of someone who makes friends with people for a living. “I’m Reese; I live across the street. I was just telling Calista that my mum makes really good barbecue. She’s making ribs tonight, actually, if you want to come over; I can tell her to make extra.”
“Would your mum be okay with that?” my dad asked, somewhat taken aback by Reese’s upfront style.
“My mum would have no problems with it,” she answered.
“Then we’ll be there,” my dad replied. “There’ll be five of us, so keep that in mind.”
“Easy-peasy,” said Reese. “Calista, it was super cool to meet you. See you at six, and bring an appetite and a bathing suit!”
And with that, she hugged me tightly and then hurried out the door.
“She’s interesting,” my dad remarked.
“Yeah,” I replied, shrugging.
Suddenly, I was starting to like my new neighborhood.
~
At six, we walked across the street to the Halloran’s house. Mom brought a pie she picked up at the grocery store on her way home from work. My mom never goes to someone’s house for the first time without bringing some sort of baked good. And yes, I was wearing my bathing suit under my clothes. My brothers were arguing over who was hungrier (for a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, they can be extremely immature) and I was somehow ignoring the heat; I just couldn’t wait to see Reese again.
When my dad rang the doorbell, one of Reese’s moms answered.
“You must be the Finches!” she exclaimed, a smile oddly like Reese’s lighting up her face. “Just go straight through to the back; Reese, Troy, Dawson, and Piper are out there and Christine’s getting the barbecue started.”
She took the pie from my mother and we all headed to the backyard.
Reese greeted me with a huge hug.
“Hey!” she exclaimed. “You need to meet my siblings. Calista, this is Troy, Dawson, and Piper; Troy, Dawson, Piper, this is Calista from across the street.”
Troy and Dawson instantly hit it off with Perry and Nicholas (boy stuff, I guess) and Piper fit in with them easily, leaving me with Reese.
“So, I know you only moved here last night,” she was saying as we sipped lemon tea, “and I know that’s really not enough time to get a good judge of a town, but what do you think of Atlanta so far? What’s different?”
“It’s hotter here, for one,” I replied. “And the mosquitos are crazy. I got so many bites last night just being out for 45-minutes.”
“Yeah, that’s a thing here. That’s actually what the candles on the table are for. Have you noticed they smell kind of citrusy?”
“Yeah. What is that?”
“Citronella. Keeps the bugs away, smells nice too.”
Suddenly, Reese’s eyes lit up, like she had just remembered something important.
“Stay here,” she told me. “I’ll be right back.”
She was in and out of the house in a flash, carrying a notebook under her arm.
“This is for you,” she said, handing it to me. “I got it today while Mum was buying the food for dinner; it’s sort of a housewarming present.”
“Thank you,” I stammered, taking the notebook and staring at it, shocked. “But what would I use it for?”
“Anything,” Reese replied. “Make a list of weird things you notice that are different between Michigan and Georgia; keep a diary of your adventures; stick postcards in it; use it for school; write a moving-across-the-country survival guide; do all of those things—it’s really up to you.”
She shrugged.
“Thank you,” I repeated. “This is really cool.”
“Any time,” she said. “You want to go jump in the pool? We still have some time before dinner’s ready.”
“Sure,” I replied. “I’ll be right there.”
Maybe I was actually going to like living here.

3 comments :

  1. Awesome! Wish that all moving experiences could be that positive!

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  3. Great story! I could tell you put a lot of time and effort into it.
    - Sarah W.

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