Howdy, neighbor!

I’ve been told that I was born in the wrong era. Some have told me that I should have been born in the forties at the latest. I disagree, overall. I’m a HUGE fan of air conditioning, and I don’t think I would have enjoyed living before it was invented! In one way, though, I can agree with them. And that way is:

When did we forget what neighbors are supposed to be?

My parents’ generation, and my grandparents’ generation, seemed to be full of people who didn’t just live close to each other. They knew each other, talked to each other, helped each other. That seems to have gone by the wayside. Until we moved here, my husband and I never really experienced much more than a passing “how ya doin’?” with our neighbors.

I’m so happy to be able to tell you that that has changed! For the first time in our married lives, we have neighbors! The old style of neighbors. And it’s fabulous.

We live in a townhome, so we’re stuck with our neighbors. There’s no yard/fence/street between us. And it seems to be working in our favor. Out of the fourteen homes in our building, I can tell you the names of the occupants of eleven of them. (One of them just moved in this week, so I’ll be working on making that twelve in the near future.) We range in age from one man who doesn’t look old enough to drive, much less live on his own, to a couple who has grandchildren that are ready to be out on their own. Retired, working, working two jobs, stay-at-home mom, students, we have it all.

The best part, though, is that we actually count the occupants of one of those homes as true friends. They personify what we think “neighbor” is supposed to mean.

These two men have known each other for twenty years or so. One of them is divorced, and his ex-wife has custody of their two daughters. (I think he looks at our daughters as surrogates, because he loves to spend time with them.) The other is a confirmed bachelor. And they’re both awesome people.

They’ll shovel a path through the snow for us if they make it out of their house before we make it out of ours. They grill something and bring us a plate of it. Pretty much anything I make, food-wise, winds up in their house sooner or later. Well, I can’t use jalapenos for one of them, and the other doesn’t like onions. Other than that, they’ll eat everything. At times, they’ll actually make special requests, and I’ll usually give in. (You want an omelet and a funnel cake at 10pm? Sure, that sounds like fun. Be right over.) During the summer, we’ll sit in lawn chairs and talk and laugh for hours. They have foul mouths (that they TRY to control around our daughters), big laughs, and bigger hearts.

About two years ago, I came down with pneumonia. It was ugly. When my fever inched up to 106, my husband decided I needed to get to the hospital. IMMEDIATELY. He called these guys. One was at work, but the other one came over in minutes to stay with our daughters while we went to the hospital. He didn’t ask for payment (and wouldn’t accept it when we offered), didn’t ask us how long we’d be, didn’t get impatient with anything. Both of them called to check on me every day until I was feeling better.

When I got the offer from my publisher, telling those two guys fell right behind telling my family and my best friend. Because I knew that they’d be happy for me, and because they’ll never, EVER, let my ego get too big. 😉

Last fourth of July, more than half of the building had a get-together. Everybody brought something to eat, and tons of chairs were set out. We stayed out until the wee hours of the morning, talking and laughing and just spending time interacting face-to-face.

I think that’s something that has gotten lost for my generation, and it makes me sad. I’m truly grateful that we’ve found it, and we enjoy it. We’re just hoping that it will catch on again. We want people to remember how to interact in person. It’s more than checking someone’s Facebook status, it’s actually communicating with them. Helping them clear off their car when it’s snowy, bringing them food when they’re sick, sitting and talking to them when they’ve had a really bad day. We’re not alone in this great big world, and we need to remember that.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. I have a new neighbor to go talk to! 🙂

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