After living in houses for 35 years or more, I moved to an apartment a few years back. Living there was an education. My preconceived notions had apartment dwellers as young people saving to buy their first home or the elderly who had downsized and no longer wanted the responsibility of a house. What I found is that those living in apartments, at least in my complex, came in all ages and professions and carried with them all sorts of backgrounds and stories.
This was a small complex with only 30 apartment units (10 in three buildings) and eight townhouses so it was easy to get to know many of the residents, especially those in my building. Some became my friends and some did not, but all were part of my entry into another world.
I met a family who had lost their home and business through bad financial choices. Making the most of the situation, they had learned to re-think and re-new their lives through their five years of apartment living. They were the most “normal” of the families I met. Let me tell you about some of the others.
After meeting a new downstairs resident, Mary, her first words to me were “I’m crazy, you know.” Five minutes of conversation revealed she was telling the truth. Mary’s daily attire consisted of a nightgown and slippers - day or night, rain or shine, inside or outside. When she was confused, she called the EMS, who had visited her at least 20 times during the time we were neighbors. In spite of her craziness, she was a good soul and had the talent of hanging bird feeders from every possible perch and birds would find those feeders within 24 hours. She said she talked to the birds to get them to visit. I believed her.
Living next to my crazy friend was a fellow who worked for the power company. I thought he was completely normal and we enjoyed many conversations about politics, our neighbors and life in general. Then, one day I came home to find a T shaped metal rod stuck in the ground in front of his apartment. What could this be? Looking at me like I was a bit simple, he explained. He believed, because of the nature of his work, his body was becoming magnetized and to eliminate this problem, he placed both feet on either side of the pole, grabbed the handles and “grounded” himself before entering his apartment. Yeah. Sure. I think he had been spending too much time talking to Mary.
Undoubtedly the most interesting of the whole bunch was Mickey, a young mother of two. Her youngest, a little boy named Phoenix, was born not long after they moved two doors down from me. She and her family had relocated here from California to be near her husband’s family. I enjoyed visiting with her and she seemed completely normal. That should have been my first clue. When Phoenix was just a few months old, Mickey disappeared and the gossip had it she had left her family, never to return. I knew finances were tight, but had seen no signs of a pending departure. Then, a neighbor, braver than I, simply asked Mickey's husband when she would be back. It seems our young mother was an “adult entertainer” in Las Vegas and would work in a club or casino for a few months, come home to pick up her role as mommy and wife, and then return to work when the money ran out. I wish I had asked different questions when we first became acquainted.
Living in the apartment was interesting and I believe I learned to appreciate the differences in people. Not everyone in the complex was strange, but all had a story. You just needed to listen to hear them.