Sunday, June 14, 2009

New Neighbors

First, sorry for the little delay here between posts. I’ve been kind of busy. I didn’t want to leave you hanging after the last post, but there you go. Remember, quality is more important. Well, at least I think so.

I hope I don’t need to write about our neighborhood ugliness anymore. Now that I’ve written about it, I can just reference it and link to it in future posts. But now I’ve set the stage: transitional neighborhood. We’ve learned to be very skeptical each time new tenants move in nearby.

So late last fall we got new tenants next door to us. Again. Once again, the landlord had told us he thought we’d like them. We were skeptical. We’ve just learned it.

This is the house that is very close to ours; we share a driveway with them. It’s the house my grandma grew up in, one of three homes my great-grandpa had built on the street.

Our first contact was when a fellow next door called out to us: “Hey, what day is the trash pickup here?” No introductions, no “pardon me’s.” Very abrupt. I called back my answer: Tuesdays and Fridays, starting as soon as 7 a.m. “Okay, thanks.”

Was he the new neighbor? I thought the landlord had told me a disabled woman was going to be living there. Okay, so maybe he was someone who came over to help her. He always drove the van with the disabled hang tag. There was a big bumper sticker on the back with the name of some Christian church on it. Maybe he was a volunteer who was helping her. Hmmm.

We saw people go in and out of the house. “Maybe they’re all pitching in to help the lady in there,” we thought. Never saw the lady.

Then one morning in January I was up in my office working on a manuscript. I have what amounts to a third-story window right next to my computer. And that morning it was starting to snow—heavily, dramatically. It was mostly flurries; big clots of fluffy snow blowing around in all kinds of circles and spirals through the air. Some of it sticking. We got a little accumulation out of the deal, but not anything serious.

Anyway, I kept looking out at that magical snowfall, and then something caught my eye. It was the neighbors, down there in their kitchen, zipping open the kitchen-window miniblinds. There was a sudden change from a white reflection of outdoor light to the darkness of the kitchen interior.

That’s what caught my eye. But what held it was what I saw next. It was a little girl, about four or five, looking out at the magical snow flurries just as I had. I saw her eyes and mouth go “Wooow!”

And then I saw a woman move up behind her, stroke her hair, put her hands on the girl’s shoulders, and then give her a little hug from behind.

It wasn’t like I was spying on them; I couldn’t help it. It just seemed so warm, and caring, and real, and full of life.

I was impressed.

Especially in the neighborhood that I just described in my last most, where parents use the “f-word” at their kids—when they’re paying attention to them—but more often than not they simply ignore their children, turn them out to play outdoors the way people used to put their cats out at night.

So this just floored me, and the vision remains with me to this day.

There is more I’m going to write, but this is just the introduction.

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