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Leaving old houses and neighbors behind with a move
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I didn't believe it would work out this well, but it has. We've managed to rent our old house to a family member until the market improves enough for us to sell. My son Zach prayed for someone he knew to move there so he could come back and play again. I told him that wasn't likely to happen, but now I'm happily eating my words - and marveling anew at the power of a trusting child's prayer.

I'm just relieved that someone is looking out for the place. We lived there for seven years but never became close enough with any of our neighbors to trust them to keep an eye on it for us. Sadly, I think that's often the norm in today's society.

We've had a balance between good and wacky neighbors through the years. When we started out our life together as newlyweds in Scotland, we had our first experiences with both.

 We lived in an old stone house that was separated into four tiny apartments. Our elderly landlady always looked out for me.

 When I went shopping, she would stop me out front and tie a scarf around my head so I wouldn't get sick from the icy wind. I always felt like an idiot walking to town in an old lady's flowered head scarf, but I never had the heart to refuse her.

 In good weather, Mr. Butts was a fixture outside my kitchen window. I never did learn his real name, but we called him that because he had a terminal case of plumber's crack. Anytime the rain stopped, there he was, bent over in his garden for hours on end, his full moon shining in the sun.

After mentioning Mr. Butts in letters back home, I decided I should try to capture the view on video.

He did something that day that he'd never done before. He looked up at my window - and caught me filming him before I could dodge behind the curtains. I never could bring myself to say hello when I passed him on the street after that.

Across the hall there lived another newlywed American military couple. They didn't seem to realize that we knew just as little about marriage as they did. The wife would knock on our door at all hours, right in the middle of their arguments, seeking advice on what to say next. She nearly drove me mad before she gave up and flew back home to her mother.

Pearl and Homer were some of the nicest neighbors ever. I met them quite by accident shortly after we were stationed in Biloxi, Miss. I'd hurried out to get the mail one day and accidentally locked myself out of the house - in my pajamas. They were the only neighbors I'd even waved at, so I had to suck up my pride, knock and ask to use their phone to call my husband to come home with his key.

Pearl put on a pot of coffee, and it was the start of a sweet friendship. Their house smelled like an antique shop, and I often settled in at their old Formica table for coffee. It was always Folgers, but somehow Pearl made it taste better than Starbucks.

After hurricane Katrina, my heart sank when I saw a satellite image of our old neighborhood. All of the homes had been wiped off the map. I just hope that our dear friends evacuated in time.

Our next duty station was NAS Pensacola. We called our one strange neighbor Crazy Garage Man. He had an evil little wiener dog that barked hysterically and chased us.

The garage door was always open, and the guy was always inside it, watching TV on his plaid sofa. The garage was carpeted and had a refrigerator. I never learned why this man, who appeared to live alone, spent all of his time in the garage.

More craziness was in store when we moved back to Georgia. Russian immigrants lived next door. They had three tiny children who looked like cherubs with big blue eyes and glossy blond hair.

But they were like the angels in a horror movie that morph into demons when you get too close. They threw rocks at us, urinated through the fence and often dangled from it, yelling at us in Russian.

I don't have enough space in this column to tell you about the neighbors at our last house. But now that we've moved closer to my grandmother, we're on the upswing again. Everything is so familiar; the neighbors are so kind. If only it could be like this everywhere.

Kari Apted may be reached at