We sit frequently in our front alcove, whose windows overlook the neighbourhood. When summer arrives we abandon that station for the backyard table and there is no more news of neighbours. Summer news concerns the local cardinal couple, the jays, the free-roaming cats, and the raccoon family.
How does one define a full life? I was made to examine this question recently. Is your life full if you are so busy that you cannot see what goes on around you? Or is your life full if you see what goes on around you and proceed to create elaborate stories about what you see? You be the judge.
As we enjoyed a pre-dinner glass of wine in the alcove recently, we noticed several women arriving at the house of our across-the-street neighbour, whom I'll call Carol. The women wore business attire--suits and high heels—and carried briefcases in addition to their purses. We commented on the possible significance of these arrivals. It was unusual for Carol to put on a week-night party, if this was indeed a party.
Eating crackers and cheese with our wine, we watched other women arrive, singly or in pairs or small groups. Some obviously came from the subway, others by car. They ranged in age from thirty-ish to early fifties, so the common denominator was hard to ascertain. Not, of course, that it was any of our business.
But we did wonder what was happening. A meeting? A baby shower? A birthday? Carol had celebrated her own Big Birthday half a year ago, so it wasn't a birthday party for her. And we wondered where her husband, let's call him Peter, was spending the evening. Had he been gently evicted for the occasion, with a request to stay away until after 10:15?
More women arrived. Louie, the blond six-month-old cockapoo that is one of the lights of Carol's life, was ecstatic, obviously racing to the door at each new knock. Oh, no! As we watched, someone flung the door too wide and Louie escaped onto the porch. He greeted the newest arrival, a tall woman in heels, who fussed over him as one does with a friend's dog, and then he darted down the steps and ran loose around the front yard. Carol was nowhere in sight; one of the party-goers had opened the door allowing Louie to run out. So there was no one available who knew how to control Louie. The tall woman made the ineffectual restraining movements that one makes when one is not a dog-lover or dog-owner and one is wearing high heels. Louie took her dashes at him to be a new game, and he responded enthusiastically, rushing toward her then slipping away easily when she tried to corral him. The tall woman still thought she had a chance to gather him in without calling for the cavalry. Louie was in heaven, leading her farther and farther away from the porch, the yard, the house.
When she realized she had been outfoxed by a fluffy ball of lightning, she ran (as best one can run in high heels) to the house and called for help. Four women rushed out the door, one of them Carol, who called Louie in her best puppy-schooling voice. He came. Everyone went inside, but first Carol drew the baby-gate across the top of the steps so that Louie could greet the new arrivals but could not escape into the yard.
Women were still arriving. We hadn't been counting, but there must have been two dozen or more by now. Several arrived by cab. And then an SUV pulled up and seemed to park in the middle of the street. After a longish wait, a woman opened the passenger-side door. Apparently she was attending the party/meeting but the driver was not. As she disembarked, Peter came in view, walking toward the house from the subway, dressed in suit and tie. Was he going to attend the party? Peter and thirty women? But no. He leaned over to talk to the driver of the SUV. They chatted for a few minutes, while her passenger went up the walkway toward the house. And then Peter walked around the front of the car and got in. The SUV quietly disappeared. A mystery. Well, a mystery to us, because we didn't know anything at all. Nor, as I have pointed out, was it any of our business.
Finally we left the alcove and went about our own lives.
The next morning, as we settled ourselves in that same alcove to read the morning papers, my husband wondered if Carol's guests had perhaps spent the night. We imagined the briefcases as overnight cases and pictured the women in night clothes sleeping on Carol's living room floor, their suits neatly hanging from doorknobs. We eventually had to abandon this line of thought, for, unless we had arrived too late to see a mass exodus, no one left the house but the family that lived there: Carol, Peter, and their two children.
You can see the urgency of my question: Do we need to get a life, since we obviously have way too much time on our hands? Or are we filling our lives deliciously with imaginings based on what we see around us?