Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On neighbors

I didn't have neighbors, growing up. At least not neighbors in the Sesame Street sense, where it's all smiles and "Can I borrow your rake, wonderful neighbor of mine?" In the Sesame Street world, you always (and very quickly) find lots of things in common with everyone. Strangers are just friends you haven't met yet.

In the real world, there's a line between friendly and friend, and it can be a darn difficult thing to cross. Stuff gets in the way, stuff like politics and religion and where you buy your groceries. Sometimes, you put on a pleasant face to the people on your street, only to talk smack about them when you're behind closed doors. We've all done it. You gripe at and ridicule their new car, their paint color choice, their weedy lawn. Sometimes, there are petty differences. Sometimes, your neighbors just aren't your kind of people.

Oh, but sometimes they are. Sometimes, through something as simple as a shared garden, you find some of your closest friends in the space of one short summer. Who wouldn't bond over such shared glories as the first feathery leaves of lettuce, the cucumbers that produced a bumper crop, and the nasturtiums that clambered cheerfully into the tops of the tomato plants? Through the slow and mindful jobs of tending our garden, I got to know my neighbors, Jen and Corrine.

Having uprooted myself from my life (and my friends) to move in with Patrick, and about to be his wife, I was sorely missing the companionship of women. Men, even the best of men, communicate in nods and grunts. They use fewer words. They won't be impressed by the embroidery you've spent all afternoon with: "It's nice! What else do you want me to say?!" There are things sacred and special to most women that are firmly beyond the ken of most men. I missed that bond. Then I made friends with my neighbors.

In the space of year, we've shared weddings and holiday meals, canning kitchens and snowed-in afternoons. We've covered each others' cat-care duties, loaned small appliances, and ferried baked goods back and forth across the driveway between our houses. Looking back, I wonder how I got along without them.

When they move away next week, I'll keep that fabulous line from Dr. Seuss in my head:

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
And I'll have canning jars, books, and this fabulous schoolhouse desk to help me smile and think of them.


Julie said...

I LOVE that quote, I'd forgotten about it and needed to hear it again. Thank you for posting it today!

Blue is Bleu said...

I uprooted myself from Australia to come to the States so I know what you mean. I miss my girl friends dearly, especially our long talks about everything and nothing at all.

Kristina said...

It's so hard to make new friends once you get to a certain age. Why is that?

Karen said...

*very* similar thing just happened to me, it was a girl who turned out to be one of my very best friends. but the great legacy she left for me was a whole bunch of new friends (i was new in town, too, and knew hardly anyone but when i met her...) and a way of being that i want to emulate -- simple, frugal, hospitable. i can take what she gave me/taught me and thusly her spirit ... and my happiness ... live on!

Lisa-Marie said...

I have this with my downstairs neighbours and my across the fence neighbours. everyone in our part of the street helps each other out, it makes life so much nicer!

(the word it wants me to type in the verification box is 'fecker'. It made me laugh)

katherine mary said...

just a couple of days ago I was listening to a lecture about the buddha's 5 remembrances the fourth of which is "All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them." so sad, so true, so important to remember to cherish what we have while we have it. thanks for the reminder <3

Becky said...

I love the Suess quote too. It's very, very true but hard to adhere to.

I didn't have really true good girl friends growing up. Most of them were too silly and girly and game paying types. I don't mean Monopoly and card games. I'm talking about the mean spirited head games. I hung out mostly with the boys.

I have found more good girl friends in my 40's than I had in all the years previous.

To some extent it depends are where you are in life I suppose. When my kids hit middle school age is when I met more Moms and formed strong bonds.

Liz said...

I've been blessed with great neighbors the last few years, but not so much in the other places we've lived.

gardenmama said...

What a beautiful quote, I can imagine this must be a difficult time... many blessings to you! Here's to hoping a new friend may move into their home : )

Pink of Perfection said...

a friendly neighbor is a terrible thing to lose...but that amazing desk will be a good place to sit and nurse your sorrows. at least until the next friendly neighbor comes along.

i am still trying to learn and accept that buddha quote that katharine mary brought up. i'm always blown away with surprise by change.

Kristina said...

Thank you, everyone, for your kind words and insights!

The people moving in are an artist and a musician. Things are looking up already. :)

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