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Memorial Day thoughts from the HoA home front

Fort_mchenry_flag_2 Small American flags wave at the curbside of every home in our neighborhood.

The Homeowners Association (HoA) stuck them there in recognition of the Memorial Day weekend.

It was nice to wake up this morning and find the flag, especially since we noticed similar ones yesterday along homes nearer the entrance to our neighborhood. We weren't here last Memorial Day, but we were pretty sure it was the work of the HoA and not just the coordinated but ad hoc actions of that one group of residents.

Also, we still had the faded July 4th flag the HoA placed out front last year just before we moved into our house on July 2.

The flag is a nice gesture on this holiday, particularly since we have service people in more immediate harm than usual in the Mideast. As this Memorial Day nears, it makes me want them home, here to attend picnics and see their kids play Little League and enjoy life like I am on these ever-warmer early summer days.

I wanted our military personnel home yesterday. In fact, I didn't want them to go to Iraq in the first place, finding the reasons for their deployment, not to mention the under-equipped way they were sent over, simultaneously infuriating and distressing.

Don't dare accuse me of not supporting our troops or confuse my distaste for the politics of the war and those who planned it with my respect for those who must execute those ill-conceived plans. My brain, unlike those of some people, can hold two apparently divergent thoughts at the same time.

And my brain says that every day we're over there with a wrongly devised and haphazardly employed plan is another day that more people die who shouldn't. At best, they have their lives irreparably damaged -- physically, emotionally or both.

But for now, Memorial Day 2006 in the United States, the rest of us go about our business and sing anthems and fly our flags. And hope our service people all come home soon.

Flying the flag: Neither the hubby nor I are much for overt patriotism, even though we have three U.S. flags. The first one we got when we lived and worked in the Washington, D.C., area.

One of the first things we learned as new Congressional employees is that you can purchase a flag from your Representative and have it flown over the U.S. Capitol. We also learned that it flies over the Capitol building for about three seconds, but it flies.

Fort_mchenry_overview_2 So we bought ourselves a flag, as well as some for our families. We were especially glad we got one after we visited Fort McHenry in Baltimore and stood where Francis Scott Key watched it "yet wave."

We still have that Capitol-flown flag. We also have the one we gave to my husband's grandmother; when she passed away, it was given to us. We also have one from the Veteran's Administration acknowledging my dad's service in the Navy and given to my mother when Daddy died. Mum wanted me to have it, so I do.

We had a flag holder on our Maryland home and would position our flag there every appropriate holiday. I must admit, it did look nice.

We never got around to putting it up in Florida, though. Partly because the place was stucco and we never got a drill that would allow us to attach things without cracking the plaster.

Plus, while the flag really fit in with the white siding and stone front of our traditionally styled Maryland home, the red, white and blue sort of clashed with the pink (sorry, dusky rose) paint of our Florida casa.

Here we've got Texas limestone on most of our Austin home and the colors would look nice against it. We also now have a drill, so maybe we'll make a run to a hardware store and get another flag holder (we left the original one attached to the Maryland house).

Of course, we'll have to check the HoA covenants to find out the guidelines for displaying a flag. We don't want a repeat of what we watched amusedly and bemusedly back in Florida.

There, a cranky old codger in a nearby community defied his association's flag flying rules. He was so annoying, taking the false position that the HoA was prohibiting his freedom of expression and blowing the patriotism horn so loudly you wanted to shove it down his throat.

The association never told him he couldn't display the U.S. flag. It just said he couldn't do it on a flag pole in his front yard. Instead, its rules required house-mounted holders. But that wasn't showy enough for him. Plus, he complained, if he put it from a façade-attached holder, he'd have to cut back the shrubs in front of his house.

I kept waiting for someone to ask him why his shrubs were more important than the "respect for our country" that he kept bellowing about. But no one did, at least not while he was in front of the TV cameras he so loved (and vice versa).

We certainly don't want to get into a similar fight with our HoA. Doubt there'll be one. We've seen some U.S. and Texas flags flying from tree and house mounts, but we'll double check the rules just to be sure. Not a big deal.

HoA pro and con: As I mentioned in this previous blog entry, I like living in a community with an association. Although over the years we've found some covenants in some associations that we didn't totally agree with, most of the time we like the ground rules.

They say that good fences make good neighbors. Well, I've also found that a good HoA makes for nicer looking fences and keeps you on more cordial terms with your neighbors when they and their questionable tastes go a bit astray.

One of my friends and a former colleague back in Florida, however, detests HoAs, almost viscerally. After my earlier pro-association post, Doug dropped me an e-mail to say:

"Sorry, but I don't share your warm and cuddly feelings toward HoAs. I hate them and would outlaw them, had I the power.

"With all due respect, to me that sounds like the people who think it's OK to take away personal rights and freedoms in the interest of improving security. Life is tradeoffs, and I'm almost always on the MYOB side.

"I guess it's better that we're friends than neighbors.

"I've never had a neighbor I hated as much as I hate the HoA. And I've never lived in a city that didn't have plenty of laws governing how high the grass could be and if you could have a yard car etc. If you could be assured that the HoA would be run by reasonable, non-power tripping, non-busybody individuals who would worry about the common areas and leave people's private properties alone, I would find value in them. But I've never seen an HoA like that yet.

"Besides, you live in Texas. Can't you just shoot bad neighbors?"

I knew he was joking in that last sentence (right, Doug?), so I flippantly shot (oooh, sorry!) back: "Exactly! And they can shoot back! Better the HoA prez catch the bullet than me!"

Then today our local ABC affiliate, KVUE, reports:

"Cedar Park [an Austin suburb] police are searching for the person or people involved in a suspicious drive by shooting. The owner of a home … heard gunshots around 10 p.m. Thursday. Investigators found bullets on the floor and bullet holes on the home's exterior. Police say the homeowner is the president of the Cyprus Creek Homeowners Association. Investigators report ongoing problems in the neighborhood. No one was injured in the incident."

Yikes! Life imitates smart-ass e-mail banter between friends.

I'm certainly glad no one was hurt. But I also think it'll be a while before I think about serving on any HoA board down here!

Photographs courtesy of the National Park Service.


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