Alternate Title: My Therapist’s Tree Fell in My Yard
This is the post that I always thought would be my last, my blogging grand finale, because I hope to God nothing more bizarre than this story happens in my life. But now I’ve decided to tell it here, and I don’t intend for it to be my last, but you must admit, it is bizarre, even for me.
In the early Spring of 2002, as LG was about to finish kindergarten at her little private school, Jif and I did some much-needed life assessment and planning. We lived in a two-bedroom bungalow which was bursting at the seams. Our road was far too busy for LG to learn to ride a bike, scooter, etc., and she was falling way behind in these lifeskills. We lived in a public school district in which we didn’t want to (non)educate LG, and we couldn’t really see enrolling her in a religious (i.e., Roman Catholic) school; all other private schools in the area were out of our price range. Conclusion: we needed to move, to a quieter street, with a little bit bigger house and a lot better schools.
The search for a new house can be terribly stressful. Particularly so when your old house sells, and you must have a place to go by a certain date. I unloaded some of this househunting stress in my semi-every-now-and-then-when-things-are-stressful therapy session. I talked with my therapist about where I would like to live, based on the school research I had done. Indeed, I wanted to move into the school district closest to her office. She knew the schools there, and agreed that they are excellent.
Fast forward a few weeks to another therapy session. By this time we had seen dozens of houses, with no luck. We had even seen one in a neighborhood very near one of the best schools, but the house was in very bad shape. In bad shape in creepy ways, that gave me a bad feeling about the place — the doors to the private areas (bedroom, bathrooms) had all been removed, among other oddities — so we definitely didn’t want that one. When I described the location of the house, on Fox Hole Drive, my therapist (also named Susan, but called Sue) said, “The one by the pond?”
“Yes,” I said tentatively. “So do you know the neighborhood?”
“I live there!” she said.
I had to gather my thoughts quickly. “Right there?”
“No, no,” she clarified, “other side of the street.”
Oh. OK. I know the house she means. Nice, normal suburban house on a little hill directly across from the pond. Yea, I could see her living there. She went on to tell me about the area, the schools, etc., and agreed that getting into that school district would be a good thing.
As I left that day, glancing at the little business cards in the holder on the table by the door, I noticed that the address printed there was not the office park address where I saw her, but an address on Fox Hole Drive. I suppose I had always known that it wasn’t her office address on her cards. But I had never, would never, have tried to figure out where she lived, because as a fellow therapist, that’s just creepy. My name is in the phone book; my clients could find my house if they wanted to. But I hope they don’t, because, again, that would creep me out. So out of . . . whatever that sense of respecting boundaries is, I would not have tried to find out where she lived. Of course, I now knew exactly the house she lived in, because she had told me.
We continued looking for houses. It was such an ordeal. I recall walking out of more than one and crying in the yard, in frustration, because the amount of money we wanted to spend would not go far at all in that school district. Then one day, as we were on our way to see a house that our long-suffering realtor had told us about, we took a short cut across Fox Hole Drive. And just as we passed this pretty little (medium-sized) house, a woman was putting flyers in a “for sale by owner” sign in the front yard. We stopped abruptly. And went in. And I think we knew when we walked in the front door, just from the feel of the place. When we saw the stone fireplace and the nice, big backyard, we were hooked. Then when the seller gave us brownies fresh out of the oven . . . fuggedaboutit. We had found home.
But wait, this is a little weird. It’s on the same road as my therapist. Yea, that is coincidental, but Fox Hole Road is about 3 miles long. She lives close to one end, just across from the pond, and I will be living close to the opposite end. Interesting coincidence, but no big deal.
No big deal, until I go in to see her. And I tell her how happy I am that we found a house, but, “You are not going to BELIEVE where it is . . . “
“Where?” she asks, eagerly.
“Right in your neighborhood!”
“That one beside the pond with no doors inside?!”
“No, down the road a ways. 3377 Fox Hole Drive.”
Her smile fades just the tiniest bit, and she nods slowly.
And then my smile fades just the tiniest bit, and I nod slowly, because it looks like she doesn’t want me living down the road from her, even though when I told her weeks ago we were looking in the neighborhood, she thought it was a great idea, great schools, etc.
Then she says, “That’s right next door to me, you know.”
And I say three words that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. “No it isn’t.”
“Yeeeees, it is. I live at 3379.”
Then I say, “No you don’t.”
Then she says, “Yes, I do.”
And I say, “No you don’t.”
It is during this eloquent exchange that it occurs to me that I understand, perhaps for the first time in my life, the precise meaning of the verb, “to freak out.” I am freaking out. Out I am freaking. I don’t know what to say. I have bought the effing house next door to my therapist.
I had so many thoughts rushing around. Mostly, “Do not! You live in the house on the hill across from the pond!” Eventually I did say that. Turns out “across the road,” didn’t actually mean “right across the road.” It meant more like, on the other side of the road from the pond, and a couple miles north.
I felt like a stalker. And I had been very cautious not to be a stalker. In the many years I had known her, I had never looked to see where she lived. I made a little speech to that effect. And thank God, it had been many years, because she knew me well enough to know that I was telling the truth. So we spent the next hour, and probably another session or two, talking about the absolute weirdness of the situation. She was, has always been, as gracious about it as one can be. She even said that she saw our daughter running around in the backyard as we were touring the house, that day the sellers had the open house. Of course, she didn’t know it was my daughter, but she said that she and her husband said how nice it would be to have a little girl next door, and that they sat on their sunporch praying that they would get nice neighbors. So, she considered our buying the house an answer to her prayers. (It’s not God’s fault she forget to add, “who aren’t my clients.”)
People who know this story (and there aren’t many, until now) have asked me if it’s weird living next to my therapist. It really isn’t. Now. I completely forget about it until it happens that we both go out to get in our cars at the same time to drive 10 minutes to her office when I’m her first appointment. Other times, one of us will call the other and start the conversation, “It’s the neighbor calling . . . ” to talk about the fox that’s been hanging around, or the fallen tree, or picking up the vacation mail, as opposed to “It’s the therapist/client calling . . . ” to change an appointment, etc.
I don’t drive by her house thinking, “That’s where my therapist lives.” But I do drive by, or sometimes walk by, that house across the road from the pond, and every single time, I think to myself, “That’s where Sue doesn’t live.”
But it did freak me out thoroughly enough that I haven’t yet found out who lives on the other side of us, or across the street. I fear that the one is my gynecologist and the other, my dentist.
*reference to What About Bob?, one of my favorite movies, in which the therapist can’t get away from his client