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.