Friday, January 10, 2014

The Random Connections of a Neighborhood

We all know the saying "you can pick your friends but you can't pick your family." In some ways, the same could be said about neighbors. Generally, you can't decide who moves in beside you, across from you or down the block from you. Great neighbors are one of the random connect points in life that I love.

Neighbors often know more about your habits than anyone else. They know if you eat and drink healthy by what's in your recycle bin. They know if you clean up after your dog, how late you go to bed , if you keep a neat yard, what time you leave in the morning...the list can go on and on. So when neighbors can also be friends, watchdogs, key-keepers, nurses and babysitters, it's truly a lucky place to be.

Living in Washington, DC, during my early career years, I made my first "grown up" friends, Eleanor and Helen, because they lived across the street from me and my two roommates. Like us, Eleanor and Helen were recent college grads from the south living on their own for the first time. We quickly discovered they had college experiences similar to ours and were working in the political arena like we were.

The five of us grew close sharing Thursday night tv-watching parties, lamenting over first "grown up" boyfriends, experimenting with recipes and scaring off burglars. We could pop back and forth between houses in our pajamas, and no one would notice. What a comfort that friendship came to be with those neighbors.

Later after getting married, my husband and I lived in a fairly large condo complex just outside of DC. No such luck with neighbors there. The only contact we had with our upstairs neighbors was listening to them bounce a mattress down the stairs in the middle of the night as they moved out. We knew we were missing something without a neighbor we could trust with a house key.

When we moved to Columbia 20 years ago and bought our house, little did I know what a gold mine of neighbors we would accumulate over the years. I marvel daily at the magic our little neighborhood has created. Kids attend different schools. Adults work in varying professions. Families hail from different places. Ages span many decades. Some have been on the street for 50+ years and others are newcomers. But we are lucky beyond words because of these friends who have come together purely by the random connection of where we live.

We lovingly call each other "Gladys Kravits" after the nosy neighbor from "Bewitched." It's reassuring to know that someone will notice if your car is home during a workday and call to check on you. It's comforting to know that someone will pick up the paper and mail if you are out of town.  

Need to cut magnolia leaves? Come on down. Missing an ingredient while cooking? Surely someone has a egg. Car need a jump? Someone will be there to help before you can make a phone call. Feeling under the weather? Casseroles and soup will show up. Need to hide Christmas gifts? Always space in someone's garage.
The yearly street party, frequent impromptu cookouts, kids driving golf carts, boys throwing the baseball with dads, little ones climbing the magnolia tree outside my sun porch, parents carpooling, adults "porch sitting" on a weekend night....all coming together because of the random connection of a neighborhood. We may not be unique, but we sure are lucky!