Neighborhoods are a curious phenomena.
You move in hoping for a Norman Rockwell painting, only to discover you’re living out a Stephen King novel.
My neighborhood is somewhere in between.
I grew up in the Norman Rockwell neighborhood, complete with block parties and ice cream socials. There were the occasional “odd” neighbors, but they were still a part of the neighborhood, and we knew their names. No one complained if the kids were playing outside…alone (because that’s how it was done in the 70s and 80s), and if a package got delivered to the wrong address, you hand delivered it to the appropriate neighbor…with a smile and a “thank you.” You didn’t call the police to report a suspicious package (that really happened).
I don’t know if this goes for all townhouse developments, or if mine is just special. I can go days without seeing a neighbor. Maybe people see a townhouse as “temporary housing” until they can afford the unattached home in the other neighborhood, so they don’t bother to get to know their neighbors. Or maybe it’s just the way things are now. I’m not really sure.
I only know a few of my neighbors’ names, and that’s because I went out of my way to say “hello” and introduce myself. After all, we’re living in close proximity, my kids walk by their house every day…I want to know who they are.
Granted, I’m a SAHM, and I don’t drive, so I’m sort of the “Mrs. Kravitz” of the neighborhood, though without the show-up-at-the-front-door-unannounced thing she did. (Sorry for the “Bewitched” reference…my age is showing.) But since I’m here, I see a lot of what goes on during the day. A lot.
I watched one neighbor move 16 people (plus his family of 4) into his 2 bedroom unit before the Home Owners Association told him they couldn’t do that. By the way, I wasn’t the one that reported it…I promise. I watched that same neighbor use an oil drum to burn his trash in his driveway, directly under his wooden balcony. Again, I wasn’t the one that reported it.
I’ve seen ambulances show up and take neighbors (whom I’ve never met) to the hospital, and I wonder if they’re okay. I feel compelled to knock on their door and offer any help I can, but I don’t, because I don’t know how it would be received. I don’t know them, yet they live across the street.
I miss the days of having the neighbor over for a cup of coffee just because. Or being able to bring a neighbor some cookies at Christmas time without having to worry that I’ve offended them. I’d take a traditional dessert from my Muslim or Jewish neighbor without being offended. And I’d say “thank you.”
Perhaps I’m lamenting for something that will never be, at least in this neighborhood. Perhaps it’s my own fault for not sticking my neck out there and making a better effort. Maybe Mrs. Kravitz had it right. At least she knew her neighbors.
Tell me about your favorite neighborhood stories. Good and bad. Do you have a close-knit neighborhood or do you prefer to keep neighbors at arms distance?