Last Friday, I came home from work around a quarter to one in the morning, and I found the eldest of my three upstairs neighbors hanging out on the front stoop. She told me that she was planning to borrow a friend's weed-whacker to hit the plants in front of the house. A few weeks ago, I planted some sunflower seeds, and a couple of the plants are doing pretty well. Even more significantly, there was a ton of lambs' quarters plants in the small patch of dirt in front of the house. The conversation took a bit of a weird turn...
"**REDACTED**, I put in some sunflower seeds a couple of weeks ago, but I didn't mention it, because I figured it would be a nice surprise to have some ten foot tall sunflowers in front of the house. Also, about that other weeds... uh, I'm going to eat them. They are a lot like spinach, so I'm planning on making a meal of them."
The head of the household is a Monaghan girl, in the 'States for twenty-four years. The youngest neighbor is her daughter, who is a sweet, good-natured high schooler. I have to confess, I don't know if the "middle" neighbor is a daughter/sister, sister/aunt, or niece/cousin... there's a definite family resemblance, but she has a more pronounced accent than the other two. I've been cordial with them since they moved in about nine months ago, but figured the last thing three women (one of them a minor) needed was an overbearing male neighbor. Also, my work schedule is bizarre, so I'd always joke with them about being the "ghost who haunts downstairs". I always make sure the snow is shoveled, and put the garbage cans out by the curb, so I've been a friendly ghost. Last winter, the youngest one won my approval by helping me shovel the sidewalk and driveway of our elderly next-door neighbors.
I was shooting the breeze with my neighbor for a good forty-five minutes before she had to turn in, having a traditional office job. We learned more about each other last week than we had the previous nine months (I hadn't known that she learned about the apartment from the neighborhood "deputy mayor" across the street). We've always gotten along well, but now we're genuinely buds. I can't joke about being the "ghost that haunts downstairs" anymore... now I'm the amiable eccentric who eats the weeds in front of the house. Friday afternoon, I harvested a bumper crop.
POSTSCRIPT: The lambs' quarters are going to be parboiled with some stinging nettles, then pureed with some onion and mixed with eggs and feta cheese for a spanakopita-like pastry. The upstairs neighbors and I are going to join forces in a yard beautification effort. Spring is pretty damn good.