19 October 2012

Meet The Neighbors

Welcome back. Some time ago, an editor on the Stage of Life website wrote, promoting meet-your-neighbors activities. I posted a comment, “Good thoughts. I'm embarrassed to admit that I wouldn't even recognize neighbors more than two houses away.”

It’s sad how my neighbor-interaction radius has shrunk over the years.
Neighborhood Watch sign

Neighbor History

Growing up in Upstate New York, I knew nearly everyone for long distances up and down our very long street and for respectable distances on cross streets. That rather far-reaching who’s-your-neighbor familiarity was typical of suburban neighborhoods at the time; plus my older brother and I covered a range of neighborhood kids. But a large part of the reason was our parents. They weren’t nosy, just friendly.

Years later, whenever and wherever they would visit me, they would introduce me to one or more of my neighbors. In the Washington, DC, area, when my mother visited and rode the Metro (subway) with me, other riders seemed to welcome her opening remarks about the book they were reading or what they were wearing or doing. One woman, busily knitting, responded by inviting my mother’s help with what I presume was a difficult stitch.

There was a time when I strived to be neighborly. For example, after joining a university staff and moving into an old house in an established neighborhood, we invited the residents of every house we could see from our front door plus a few others to an evening of wine and cheese.

It was sterling! Since virtually everyone was associated with the university, conversations flowed. After that evening, it was easy for me to at least say hello to any of the neighbors and to even continue socializing with one.

In our first home in the Washington area, our toddler son often broke the ice (or more), but we seldom saw anyone other than the retired couple next door. Unlike residents of the university community, no one worked in the same place or kept the same hours beyond starting early, finishing late and devoting weekends to everything that couldn’t be accomplished during the workweek.

Wrap Up

And now, it’s as I commented to the editor. Beyond the radius of one or two houses, I would hardly recognize anyone. It’s difficult enough to keep up with transitions within the two-house radius. Three families moved and were replaced; the next-door babysitter went to college, married and lives in Chicago; and I’m not totally sure about the other kids besides college. 

A neighbor moves out and
 the house is For Rent.

Our neighborhood is joined under a Homeowners Association. The officers once organized what was advertised as a meet-your-neighbor evening at a clubhouse outside of the neighborhood. Hoping this opportunity would be as productive as the event I hosted in the university community, I looked forward to attending.

What a bust! From arrival to departure, any attempt at discourse was drowned out by exceedingly loud music and karaoke singers who knew each other well and cheered each other on. I suppose I should have joined in. My mother would have.

Thanks for stopping by.

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