I’ve been reflecting quite a bit over the past week or so about the concept of Neighbors and what a unique relationship neighbors have with each other.
Neighbors aren’t family. And unlike friends, we don’t actually choose our neighbors. We choose the home, apartment or condo and, often, specifically select the neighborhood in which it is located. But neighbors . . . Well, that’s a crap shoot. They can turn out terribly or end up being almost like family.
When your neighbors do the moving, you worry about who or what could be moving in. Will they grow tomatoes in their front yard and tear down the trees? Or will they have great kids and like the same beer you do?
If you love your current neighbors, you also worry that you will lose touch when they move because that is a risk in the odd neighbor-neighbor relationship. Often, despite sharing tools and snow shovels, backyard BBQs, birthdays, baby showers and other major milestones, all we really might have in common with the people next door or across the street, when it’s all boiled down, are our houses and our other neighbors.
Sometimes, though, the memories, of snow storms and gardens, sickness and health, BBQs and weddings, are enough to form a permanent bond, even after, at long last, someone moves away.
My folks were never the ones to move away. Since 1966, my parents (and since Dad died in 2002, just my mom) have lived in the same house. Neighbor turnover has always been slow (is it because my folks were just that great to live next to?), but over the last 45 years, they experienced a couple of douzies. There was the “white trash” divorcee who bathed in her bikini in the front yard and let chipmunks move into a junked car up on blocks. I can tell you that words like “property value” and “taller fence” flew around during those years. But finally she and her assortment of children and boyfriends moved and in came a nice, new family who fixed up the house and had Dad over for hamburgers when Mom came up to visit us.
Across the street was a couple who built their house in ’64. They were at my baptism and my brother’s baptism, at our first birthday parties and our confirmations. My folks were there for them through crises and their losses. They were there for my folks when they lost their parents, and there for us when we lost Dad. Their daughter baby-sat us, and I was the flower girl in her wedding. We went to their family parties (where I became famous, or infamous, for declaring that “green beans make ya sick”)–and they came to ours.
Our cat spied on her in the mornings through her window. But even though she didn’t like cats, sometimes they would bring us doughnuts on the way home from church (we shared the same church), leaving them on our doorstep as a surprise. I watered their plants and brought in their mail when they went on vacation, one of my very first jobs.
They did up Christmas decorations bigger than any family I can remember, with homemade ornaments, a light-up village they made in ceramics and the most beautifully wrapped presents ever. I have her recipes for everything from Christmas cookie dough and icing to Rush Mush, a frozen orange-bourbon slushy that will rock your summer drink world.
They also were a first-alert system for my parents, letting my mom know when I snuck a “friend” over while she was gone. [Now that I’m a parent, I hope our neighbors will be so good as to return the favor.] When I became the bride, they threw a shower for me. And they were there for our first child’s christening.
Even though they moved away a few years ago, the house will always be theirs in my mind. They had us over to see their new place, which they also built. And that was the last time I saw them, although we are friends on Facebook. My mom has stayed in touch, but memories always include my father. Mom saw them a few months ago at lunch and reported that the Mrs. didn’t look good. A couple of weeks ago, the daughter called to let my Mom know that her mom had only a few months to live. She passed this morning.
Neighbors, neighbors, neighbors
Have I got neighbors?
Have I got neighbors?
All day and all night*
And memories to last a lifetime.
(*credit: Neighbors, Rolling Stones)