What’s Going On at the House Next Door?

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Have you ever noticed there’s always one house in every neighborhood where everyone wonders “What in the world is going on over there?”

Who recognizes this lady? Hint: It's from an old sitcom. If you live in the big city, there is always that noisy apartment at the end of the hallway that has a steady stream of visitors and an unusual fragrance wafting out from beneath the door. Or maybe you live in the suburbs and wonder why the house on the corner always has so many cars in the driveway and so many people milling around in front of the garage. Or maybe you live way out in the country and can’t figure out the deal with that house off Route 75 that has elevendy-hundred children’s toys stacked in a precarious, four-foot tall (leaning) tower on their carport.

Well I’ve come to the conclusion that I am THAT person in MY neighborhood.

My UPS & FedEx delivery guys are suspicious that I’m a terrorist, my mailman is sure that I run a brothel, and my neighbors think I’m operating a meth lab. I’ll explain in a minute.  Yes, we straddle the border of West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.

First let me tell you that although I am originally from this area of West Virginia, I have lived in Cleveland, Southern California, and North Carolina at various times in my life. I now live near the tiny town of Lavalette, but my day job is in the larger, neighboring town of Huntington. Soapmaking is a side job that I do out of my home. I’ve converted an extra bedroom into my workshop.

The people of Huntington – which is in Cabell County – refer to me and my neighborhood as being located ‘Out Wayne’ because we are outside the Huntington city limits and are in a different county – Wayne County.  So I live Out Wayne. If you live even farther out in Wayne County than I do, you are referred to as living ‘Way Out Wayne’.  I don’t live Way Out Wayne.

Just thought I’d share that bit of local lingo with you, in case you ever want to visit here and need to blend in with the locals.

Another thing; very few people here start their sentences with ‘Dude’.  Many years ago, while living in California, I began most of my sentences with Dude, but that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.Dude

Although you won’t hear Dude very often around here, you will hear ‘Son’ as a generic term that men use to address each other. And it has nothing to do with any kind of familial relationship. For example, this is an exchange I overheard between two old friends who had just run into each other at the local Kenny Queen Ace hardware store:

West Virginia Man #1: “Son, it sure looks like your wife has been feedin’ you good!!  There’s a lot more OF you than the last time I saw you.”

West Virginia Man #2:  “Well, son, I’m tellin’ you . . . I don’t miss any meals, that’s for sure”.

Note that we sometimes leave the g’s off the ends of our words. This is Appalachia – many of us grew up poor, and we don’t like to waste things, including our g’s. Waste not, want not.

Anyway, here in my rural town, my house sits way back off the main road at the end of a badly-rutted gravel lane that runs past a tiny neighborhood of only four other homes. My town is one of those quiet little places where nothing much happens.  People are usually kept pretty busy earning a living, visiting Aunt Pearl in the nursing home, stopping by the store to pick up some sweet corn for dinner, running the kids to baseball practice, or calling the electric company to find out why the power is out again (it’s usually a tree on the line. We’ve got more trees around here than you can shake a stick at, and they like to fall down.)

My House

But once people here are done with their work days, there is usually at least a little time to sit around on the porch on the weekend and watch the grass grow. That’s when people have time to chat about what’s going on in the world or what’s going on down the road.

Well, a few years ago, some people around here began noticing something odd over at my house. This was about the time I started making and selling soap, but local people did not yet know that I was a soapmaker, because I sell almost exclusively online. But people were starting to notice the unusual number of FedEx and UPS trucks that were going to and from my house.

Because of this, I became the subject of some intense speculation.

perros1Most packages delivered to my town by Fed Ex and UPS are probably the usual internet shopping deliveries of books, shoes, kitchen gadgets, electronics, or that one infamous fruitcake that makes its way around the world on a regular basis.  But it just so happened that one day someone noticed that a certain package delivered to MY house was leaking a suspicious white powder.

I remember coming home from work that day to see a box on my front porch that had obviously been ripped open by the shipping company and then sloppily re-sealed. The package was from one of my soap supply companies, and the ‘suspicious white powder’ was citric acid – the same stuff that is used when canning tomatoes or making fruit jelly (or in my case, when making bath fizzies). I can only imagine the ruckus that box caused when it first showed up at the local shipping facility.jam

Then there was the time I had to sign for a package from my mailman at my front door. The package was addressed to The Enchanted Bath and it was from Taiwan (it was a totally cute soap mold!). While signing the receipt I noticed the mailman peering surreptitiously over my shoulder into my house.

JessNow, I don’t like to make sweeping generalizations (oh, who am I kidding – I do it all the time), but many men seem to look at most things in a way that somehow relates back to sex. I didn’t make that up; I saw it on Dr. Phil; the knower of all things. So with a business name like ‘The Enchanted Bath’, and with me being located in an unmarked home in an out-of-the-way spot, it probably isn’t a great leap for some men to consider the possibility that my business is involved in something racy.

So I suspect the mailman was peeking over my shoulder because he thought I was running some kind of massage parlor or bathing-related brothel. To be fair, I did answer the door in my nightgown at noon on a Saturday, but hey, I was having a really bad day. If he was expecting to see a beautiful girl lounging around in a negligee, he was sadly disappointed. All he saw when I opened the door was a middle-aged lady in a comfortable cotton nightgown, holding a chipped teacup and a battered paperback book.Woman Reading Book

(Fun Fact: I first misspelled surreptitiously so badly in one of those paragraphs above, that my spell checker didn’t have a clue as to what I was trying to spell.)

As for my neighbors, I think they first got suspicious when they started catching glimpses of me through my windows, wearing my safety goggles, rubber gloves and one very attractive hair net. The fact that I was handling a lot of mysterious-looking brown bottles probably didn’t help matters much. My fragrances and essential oils are in those brown-tinted bottles, though they do look like something Dr. Frankenstein might have had in his lab.

But after numerous incidents like the ones above, I think FedEx and UPS have probably come to the conclusion that I am probably not a terrorist – just a lady who must make a ridiculous amount of jelly. And my mailman has decided that I’m not a madam – just a soapmaking bookworm who sometimes gets a little lazy on the weekends.

As for my neighbors, now that they have been reassured that I’m not running a meth lab, they often buy soap from me. They know there is nothing weird going on at my house – other than my penchant for reality TV, sushi and scary movies. And they are are now quite used to seeing me do odd things like putting bars of soap in strange places in my yard and taking photos of them (for my web site).

Yes, the neighbors have learned to overlook any bizarre behavior they may witness over at my house. They seem to chalk it all up to the fact that I ‘used to live in California’ ;-)

~Linda Mays

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