Saturday, February 23, 2008

On Being Neighborly

When Joe and I first moved in together, we lived in apartments where you didn't want to know your neighbors. When we bought our first house in Marietta, we were in a very active tennis community, and we made a lot of good friends. What's not to like about folks who bring kegs to tennis matches, after all? However, we had a tough time knowing our immediate neighbors, who weren't in the tennis crowd. On one side of us was a mostly vacant house (we never really knew what was going on there), and on the other side was a house for sale. A lovely family eventually moved in, and we'd speak to them from time to time, but other than general chit-chat we didn't really know them. I don't even remember their names.

When we moved to Montgomery, we were no longer in a structured neighborhood, so we thought we'd be on our own. Our immediate neighbors pretty much kept to themselves. I'd speak to the people who lived behind us every so often, but we didn't have a lot in common, and they had a completely insane dog tied up in their yard.

Then we started getting to know our other neighbor, Mike. I think it all started when Joe needed help tearing a shed down, and I think all men like to play with machines...

Mike's been a great help in various he-man projects, and he was as anxious as we were for this awful shed to come down - it was right on the edge of his property line, and it was hooked up to his electricity! Who knows how that all came about 40-some-odd years ago. We've been out with him and his family a few times, and he's a great beer-drinking buddy.

Then Hal moved in. The house next to Mike's was vacant as far as we knew - an actor lived there and passed away after we moved here. The house had been left to Hal, and I still remember the first day we met. He stopped by - I think he was borrowing a ladder - and I was a mess, in my not-quite-for-public sloppy/lounging clothes and my horribly cluttered house. He had on a pair of well-worn overalls and the kindest eyes. It wasn't long before we'd start chatting in the alley and learning more about each other. When I found out he was in an episode of Buffy, I was secretly star-struck. He's been a lovely neighbor and dear friend - and he makes the best Eggplant Parmesan I've ever had. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of him, but here's his sweet dog, Vanya.

After the older couple with the crazy dog retired and moved farther upstate, a couple our age moved in. We had some fun, went out a few times, but they moved after the husband took a new job, and we were left without a neighbor once again. Many folks came by, but the house remained on the market for some time. And then came Brad and Angela.

Brad, a very pregnant Angela, and their toddler ended up moving into the house behind us. As with any new neighbor situation, we were polite but a little reserved. After all, you never know if they're the kind of neighbor who spies on you (we have one of those across the street) or who drunkenly shouts about guns and pregnant teens (we have several of those too). As the months passed, we realized we had more and more in common as Brad came by for Joe's help on a house project, often with home-grown veggies or herbs in hand. Neighbors with tomatoes, huzzah!

Sorry - I don't have a picture of Angela - she's usually chasing down their two boys.

They were the missing piece of our water-tower-neighbor puzzle. Last summer they put together a neighborhood cookout for the four houses: them, us, Mike's family, and Hal. We all brought chairs and food, and it was a lovely time of fellowship and fun. They're the neighbors I can run to at 7:00 at night for a cup of sugar, and they likewise stop by if their DSL is acting up and they need to print boarding passes.

But my heart was in my throat when I came home from work after a very snowy day to find this:

Brad had taken our communal snow-blower and did our entire parking area (including near the shop, where the truck is parked). And their four-year-old wanted to help me clean the snow off my car. When I kept profusely thanking Brad, he just shrugged it off and said he and the boys had fun being outside. That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is one freakin' awesome neighbor.

1 comment:

Lorena said...

OMG, don't scare me like that! With all the "we have such great neighbors" talk I was half expecting someone to be dead by the end of the post.


Here's to happy, healthy, helpful neighbors!