It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

 

When I was growing up, there were people who lived next door and down the street. They were called “neighbors”. (Pronounced NAY-bers.) I talked to the grown-ups and played with the kids. They knew my name, I knew theirs. I stayed with them after school if my parents weren’t home.ThoughtBubble

After writing a post about Halloween being cancelled, I started looking at every house on my street. How many of these folks did I know?

What kind of wine do they like? Do they take sugar in their coffee? What are their names? I bet you know where I’m going with this, you clever readers.

I don’t know the people who live on my street.

A few wave to me while walking their dogs, others glare at the dandelions on my lawn or point to the peeling paint on my garage but that’s about it.

Forget asking to borrow a ladder. If I locked myself out of the house in the dead of winter with my pajamas on, I’d get a frost-bitten ass before knocking on any of their doors. There is no sense of community. These people are strangers to my children. What has happened in one generation?

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

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25 thoughts on “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

  1. I suppose it doesn’t seem weird to me or much of a loss. Where I lived form 11 to 18 was in one of three cottages a mile from the next group apart from a couple of isolated farms. At university it was in everyone’s pocket which I found exciting and overwhelming and then to London where it’s been pretty much as you describe since 1979 when I moved here. I have vague memories of that sort of community before 11 but they contain as many grumbles about nosiness and weird behaviour as they do about a support network. In 2012, for the Queen’s golden Jubilee we had a street party so I found out wo loved where. It was neat – a famous author lived three doors down and from time to time I nod as we pass in the street. But we all appear to prefer our own little shells. Maybe it’s a British thing, this reserve but most people I know are happy with it.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Fair enough. You’re right about that — where there’s a tight-knit neighborhood, there are neighbors who are gossipy and nosy.

      People do seem to be comfortable in their little “shells”. But it is weird for me. If I need anything, I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking anyone on my street. I don’t miss nosy neighbors, but I do miss being able to trust someone enough to have a key to your house if you lock yourself out or to water your plants while you’re away.

      And it’s extremely awkward to try to explain to my children that neighbors aren’t “strangers” like someone you’ve never seen before but that they are sort of strangers in the sense that we don’t know them and therefore sort of fall into the same category as total strangers except…not. O_o

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes I see that. I suppose, here in London the norm is to know maybe three or four neighbours beyond nodding. Ours are lovely but that hasn’t always been the case. Maybe we’ve generally been lucky so share keys and so on. But the days, like when I was small where you knew the road and children wandered in and out went when cars increased making roads seem more dangerous and both parents went out to work. My kids, most everyone’s understand that difference between strangers who might be dangerous and those who are acquaintances. I’m sure you’ll find a way to distinguish! After all you must make them laugh if you talk like you write and that aids understanding.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Three or four neighbors I can trust would be fine with me. As oppose to the none that we have. Yeah, my kids aren’t quite getting that distinction yet. It’s a fine line. And, in fairness, acquaintances can be just as dangerous as strangers. (Oops, excuse me! *blushes* My distrust of human nature is showing.)

        Indeed, I do write the way I talk (or talk the way I write — whatever). That’s part of my amazing charm, you see. But thank you. 🙂

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  2. Suburbia killed the neighborhood. In Montana (where the Hub logged for 10 years) we moved 6 times. I got to look forward to the next town and the next set of neighbors. I felt as though I’d always make friends and my coffee pot was always on (I loved afternoon coffee when several of us moms gathered to whisper and chat while toddlers napped). Fast forward through the Hub and I putting each other through college and that huge move to the Midwest where we bought our first home…in the suburbs. We lived there for 12 years and our next door neighbor was a smoker. The Hub would pop open a beer and go join the Smoker. They got to be best friends, yet his wife declined every invitation I ever extended to come over–coffee or dinner. I never made a single friend, had nay-bors call the cops on my kids’ parties (which was funny because my son baked like Betty Crocker and served Gatorade and they were all a bunch of cross-country runners, not hoodlums) and we were always having our yard pointed at. Here in Idaho, people are sepratists so neighbors are very remote and reclusive (I’m not offering coffee to the nay-bor who posts a hand-painted sign, “I shoot first…”), but recently a new neighbor, a real neighbor moved in about a mile away (yeah, that’s “close” around here). She’s had tea at my house three times and we are going to go horseback riding together. She’s from Montana!

    Liked by 4 people

    • “Suburbia killed the neighborhood.” 😀 That’s awesome.

      Wow. Going from getting together over coffee while your kids nap to if-you-step-foot-on-my-property-to-offer-coffee-I’ll-shoot-you. That’s…special.

      I’m picturing the police showing up at your house to break up a party and finding some kids drinking Gatorade and eating banana bread.

      Well, at least you have some great characters for your writing and I’m glad you found another Montana girl. A real neighbor.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. After reading about yours, Geoff’s & Charli’s nay-burs, I should cut my neighbors some slack.
    I am surrounded by an assortment of different types. The neighbors across, we look after each other’s homes and collect each other’s mail when one is out of town; but we aren’t sharing coffee types.
    Then there are some houses that I’ve never even seen a person coming or going.
    Though up until this past summer we had one that was a nay-bur with a capital N! She was the most hateful person and I never could figure out why.

    I think Charli should have a Don’t Shoot party, inviting all of the people with yards signs, I shoot first…. I bet they’d have a killer good time! 😋

    Liked by 5 people

    • Don’t give Charli any ideas. 😉

      Oh, see…that’s what I’m talking about. If a neighbor is out of town, pick up their mail and keep an eye on their house. On trash days here, if someone leaves a trash can out and it blows into the street, it stays in the street. (Just for the record, I’ve taken people’s trash cans up for them before and would do it again. That’s just the kind of girl I am.) Eh. So your neighbors don’t stop in for coffee. At least they know your name

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Lovely post and comments Sarah. I think neighbours and neighbourhoods are as individual as people. I’ve lived in some that were too needy, on my doorstop all the time, not giving me space. The current neighbours, though not friends, are friendly. We look out for each other when in need or away, but no coffee chats in the afternoon. I don’t want that. Some of my best friends were once neighbours. We have stayed friends long after we were no longer neighbours! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • So true. “…neighbourhoods are as individual as people.” Yes, they are. I just find that more and more people are content to stay in their homes and not get to know those who share a street with them. Like Amber, sounds like you have the best of both worlds. People who look out for you but don’t knock on your door every other day. (That would really bother me so I need to be careful what I wish for.)

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I have similar memories of a childhood neighborhood. We didn’t necessarily like everyone on the block, but we knew most of their names, could ask to borrow something, etc. We kids would knock on doors and offer to do odd jobs for a little cash. And since my sister and I were on our own in the afternoons with my mom was at work, we always knew we could go to the next door neighbor if we needed a grownup. I can only remember once having to do so, but it was nice for us (and our mom, of course) to know that we had that backup.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s unthinkable now, but when I was growing up, yes, kids were left on their own after school. Often. And it was just kind of understood that the neighbors would look out for other people’s children.

      The sense of community was always there. Like you said, enough familiarity to borrow something or ask for help with a project or whatever. Kids could always make a little money asking neighbors if they could rake lawns or shovel driveways or whatever else needed to be done.

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      • I know a lot of parents will disagree with me, but I actually think it’s another loss that it’s “unthinkable now” to leave kids alone. Are kids really that much more helpless than we were a generation or two ago? It’s not an ideal arrangement, to be sure, but what are parents of limited means (like my mother was) supposed to do? It’s tough.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Whoa. I wrote “unthinkable”. (Without thinking.) That is a big, heavy word. This is so interesting. Lori said in her comment below “but nowadays you can’t even let your kids go down the street without an escort…” and how they miss out on bonding with other kids. Have parents changed? Have kids? Has society? There are laws / age requirements now. Were there when I was little? I don’t know.

        But you’re right. Kids aren’t suddenly helpless. It’s just…I wouldn’t even think about leaving my kids alone. One generation ago, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Parents left their kids alone. It wasn’t an issue.

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  6. I actually prefer not to get to know my neighbors simply because it’s a very difficult relationship from which to make an escape. It’s like dating someone you work with – great while it lasts, but it can get ugly if it doesn’t work out. I aim for the friendly nod or wave and try to leave it at that. But yeah, it’s totally different from when I was growing up. Even if the parents didn’t know each other, the children always did – but nowadays you can’t even let your kids go down the street without an escort, which makes it hard for them to bond, too. Their generation will probably be even more reserved when it comes to neighbors because that’s how they were raised.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 😀 That’s hilarious. “It’s like dating someone you work with – great while it lasts, but it can get ugly if it doesn’t work out.” So true. I’m missing what I had as a child and what could be for my children but, as an adult, you’re right. It would be a difficult, uncomfortable situation to get out of. If you even could – with them living next door.

      I hope the next generation moves away (no pun intended) from the isolation just enough to be “neighborly”, not necessarily best friends but at least civil and helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a lot of interesting reflections your original 200 words have spawned. For me, I think it’s the car that has killed neighbourliness. When I lived in a terraced house in a city I definitely knew more of the neighbours. Now I have a detached house with a big garden on the edge of town so everyone drives. The only neighbour I ever really chat with the man a couple of doors down – we’re both the eccentrics who leave the house on foot. However, I do still trust that anyone would help out in an (extreme) emergency. Yet I’ve got used to my privacy and reserve, and agree with Lori – I’d really struggle if I moved somewhere where the neighbours wanted to have a street party!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes! I was thinking technology is definitely part of it but the ease of hopping in the car and going wherever has killed the connection. I’m pretty sure we had one car (which my father took to work) so my mother was left to hang out with neighbors. Hmm…a street party. Not sure about that. Maybe somewhere in between that and not knowing names would be good.

      Leaving on foot is eccentric? That’s another whole post! True though. If you see someone walking (not wearing “exercise” clothes), you wonder if their car broke down. O_o

      Like

    • I don’t know. It’s sad.

      I think some other observations here are part of it — technology and cars. Distractions and being able to go wherever you want whenever you want. Still… These people are part of our community. We should at least be able to trust someone enough to leave them a spare key even if we don’t want to have daily coffee with them.

      Like

  8. I’ve enjoyed reading a lot of the comments here Sarah – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you amaze me with the way you bring out such soul-searching points in so few words. The sign of a wonderful writer, that 🙂 I can’t really add much to what has already been said, other than for me, the ideal is to have pleasant neighbours, wave to them, be able to ask to borrow something if desperate without freezing my ass off first, but no popping over for tea or coffee, unannounced. I can’t cope with that. We have wonderful neighbours now, elderly couple who have travelled extensively and they are so interesting and we get together for drinks and nibbles from time to time, no more than that and no obligations, and we watch their house for them when they go away,keep an eye out – they have no family – have their keys and that’s fine. But this is a first. Most of the neighbourhoods where we lived in California were just as you describe in your post. Then of course we had the madman next door, which, if you have a spare minute or two, you might like to take a look at, but it ain’t pretty. The Neighbor Who Stole My Dreams What a world we live in. :/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Sherri. ❤

      Exactly. Someone to watch my house, maybe have a key so they can water the plants and let me in if I lock myself out, borrow a leaf blower or something but no popping in unannounced. Gah! No. I don't like that. Plus, people who do that often do it often. Will read The Madman Next Door. If that's not the name of a band, it should be.

      Like

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