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Did Romeo and Juliet Like Plums?
My neighbours across the street are weird. Not the lawn-gnome-collecting-30-cats-kind-of-weird, but weird nonetheless. Okay, maybe not that weird, not like the Johnson’s down the street, they have 3 sets of twins and two identical cats, or like the Hensen family two blocks over, they are definitely vampires, I mean who has their curtains drawn all day and has a separate building in their backyard for meat storage? Well at least that’s what my brother told me… Anyway, my neighbours are weird in their own way. Maybe to any other thirteen year old they wouldn’t be so strange, but to me, the daughter of an English professor and a physiatrist, they are really peculiar. It could just be that I read a lot and that I notice when people remind me of classic book characters. For example, my uncle Hank reminds me of the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, for obvious reasons, and my best friend Lilly reflects the personality of Beth March from Little Women and… what was I talking about? Oh ya, my neighbours. This may sound really cliché and all, but the two families that live across the street from me are exactly like the Capulets and Montagues from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Well, minus Romeo and Juliet because there aren’t any “star-crossed lovers”, but the rest of the families are all there.
At 36 Pinedale Crescent, there is the Peters family, or as I like to think of them, the Capulets. Mr. Peters is a prestigious lawyer and spends most of his time at his law firm. Mrs. Peters is a surgeon at the local hospital. They both have very little time for family and hired a full time nanny for their 2 ½ year old daughter Emily. The only reason I know all this is because one of my best friends Max’s (think Dickon Sowerby from The Secret Garden) family is good friends with the Peters and lives directly behind them. He babysits Emily whenever her nanny takes a day off.
Next door to the Peters, at 38 Pinedale Crescent, is the DeLong family, a.k.a. the Montagues. Mr. DeLong is also a prestigious lawyer and has his own firm. (He and Mr. Peters are always battling to be the best lawyer in the city. That, combined with their extreme competitiveness to have the best house with the most immaculate lawn, has led to a feud between the families.) Mrs. DeLong is an English professor at the University and she and my mom are good friends, not that I’m biased or anything. The DeLong’s have three kids; 5 year old twins, Jackson and Aaron, and Noah who is 3. Those three are so cute together. They’re all best friends and the twins are really protective of their younger brother.
So, if you haven’t noticed already, these two families are so similar to the characters of Romeo and Juliet that it was like some higher power created them just for my entertainment. Speaking of entertainment, from my bedroom-window-vantage-point across the street, I see the feud take place right before my eyes. Every morning it’s the same, both men glare at each other as they get into their imported sports cars and drive in opposite directions, and every afternoon, Mrs. Delong sneaks a peak at the Peters yard and occasionally yells at her gardener to do a better job. Little does she know, a few minutes later Mrs. Peters does the same thing.
This battle reached new heights a few years ago when a fence was built. I guess both families got tired of staring at each other’s mega-huge backyards and decided to build a fence. For one weekend, all was peaceful across the street as they worked quietly together to build the fence, until they got to the plum tree. The tree was enormous and old and it was obvious it had been there for quite a while, but most importantly, it was right on the line between the two properties. I mean right on the line. They ended up going to court to see who would get custody of the tree; it was in the newspaper and everything. Both men represented themselves and took it very seriously. The judge however, didn`t take it as seriously. She literally laughed out loud and told them jokingly to build the fence up to both sides of the tree and share it. The men took her advice and did just that.
People in the neighbourhood still chuckle about it at backyard barbecues and on evening walks, but I think it was actually quite smart. Both families harvest the plums that grow on their side of the tree and rake the leaves that fall on their side of the fence. Mrs. DeLong and Mrs. Peters both take the plum harvesting very seriously and make sure, well they make sure their gardeners make sure, that not a single ripe plum is ever left on the tree. Mrs. DeLong makes a delicious plum pie that she bakes for the University Christmas party every year and Mrs. Peters makes equally delicious plum jam that she gives everyone in the neighbourhood at Christmas, well everyone except for the DeLongs, that is.
Then one day, everything changed. On a late summer’s afternoon, I was babysitting the DeLong boys at the same time Max was babysitting Emily Peters. The boys were splashing around in the pool while Emily was playing quietly in her sandbox. I took the opportunity to talk over the fence to Max (while keeping an eye on the boys, of course). We discussed how we were excited about the beginning of school and the new movies at the drive in when the most unfortunate of things happened, both Mr. DeLong and Mr. Peters came home at the same time. Max and I quickly turned away from the fence, we didn’t want to be seen talking to the ‘enemy’. Both men came into their backyards at the same time to say hello. The glared at each other over the fence as the asked their children how their days went. Then Aaron gasped and whispered to his brothers. They all looked timidly at the plum tree. Everyone else turned to look and there, sitting on the middle of the fence, was a fat, juicy, purple plum.
Mrs. DeLong and Mrs. Peters came home shortly after to find their husbands arguing loudly at each other in their backyards. I don’t think any of what they were saying was even about the plum, I think a levee of emotions burst and this was the outcome. Soon after, the women started squabbling about who had the better garden, then who had the nicer house, and then who had cuter children, honestly I don’t really know where that last one came from, but I think Mrs. DeLong was mad at Mrs. Peters for having a baby not long after she did, but come on, really? So after a while, Jackson and Aaron went inside to play video games and I looked around for Noah but didn’t see him, he wasn’t in the pool or on the grass. I heard Max in the Peters yard calling for Emily. Then I saw them; and I guess everyone else saw them at the same time too because the arguing stopped and it went silent as everyone looked to the plum tree to find Noah DeLong and Emily Peters sitting side by side on a sturdy branch, sharing a fat, juicy, purple plum.
The feud didn’t end right then and there, but things definitely got better, I guess that’s what happens when two lawyers, a surgeon, and an English professor get humbled by a couple of toddlers
So I guess I kind of lied when I said this story was about Romeo and Juliet minus Romeo and Juliet, they were still there, but instead of being hopelessly in love, they’re just best friends.