Hidy Ho, Neighbor!

I ran into my neighbor the other day. “Sally” has been having terrible problems with raccoons breaking into her house. I could commiserate, since we had a whole family of them living in our attic a while back. Ah, the joys of homeownership!

So Sally told me that the night before another neighbor had heard a strange noise and looked out the window to see a fireball hurtling down from the sky above Sally’s house. Turns out, the raccoon had chewed through an electrical wire, CAUGHT FIRE, and fallen in a smoking heap in Sally’s backyard!! (You can’t make this stuff up, people.) Adding insult to injury, she had to arrange for the raccoon’s charred remains to be removed. I didn’t even know there were people you could call for that!

I would never have learned of this bizarre incident if I didn’t know my neighbors. Can you imagine? I might wake up one night to a strange screetching, sizzling noise and NEVER KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.

There was an interesting article in Parade magazine a while back about neighbors. It mentioned how in certain parts of the country people are bucking the trend of favoring privacy over community. According to social scientists, neighborhood ties today are less than half as strong as they were in the 1950s, writes Peter Lovenheim. For this he partly blames the trend towards suburban “McMansions,” huge houses set back from sidewalk-less streets that further isolate neighbors from one another.

While we live in a city, quite close to our neighbors, it’s only fairly recently that we’ve gotten to know many of them. We attended the occasional block party or BBQ here and there, but it was the blizzard of 2010 that really cemented our relationships. We all had to band together to dig out of the 3+ ft. of snow that marooned us in our houses. A neighbor hiking to the store would offer to pick up some bananas for us. Another hosted a potluck supper, and another helped us push our car out of a snowbank.

Some new people have moved in, families with young kids like us. We pass each other on the street pushing plastic cars and strollers. I’ve gotten to be good friends with the only other stay-at-home-mom on the block. She’s been a GODSEND, I tell you. We have watched each others’ kids when one of us had to rush a sibling to the doctor. We get together for impromptu movie nights and splashes in the kiddie pool, and we commiserate over glasses of wine while our kids play and our husbands work late.

The best thing? It’s easy. I don’t have to make complex arrangements to schedule a playdate with a kid across town that will likely be cancelled at the last minute anyway due to illness. I don’t have pack up diaper bags and lunch boxes and drive somewhere. The kids have built-in playmates and I have a friend I see more than once every 6 weeks when the stars and schedules align.

It makes life a lot less lonely, too. An elderly neighbor once remarked that while you used to see people around all day long, now the street clears out by 9 a.m. My MIL tells me that moms in her neighborhood used to get together for coffee while the kids played in the yard. Wow. Socializing that doesn’t require signing up for high-priced, “enriching” children’s activities and forcing the baby to skip his nap!

I admit, it’s nice to have other adults around to talk to during the day. Ones who share their tomatoes and can tell you how to get your azaleas to bloom. Ones who will lend you a bicycle pump and bring in your mail when you’re on vacation.

And especially ones who can warn you to watch out for electrocuted raccoons falling from the sky.


Melissa_Rae said…

I'm the only SAHM in my group of friends. Somedays I feel like I might go crazy from loneliness. I have learned to build up community with other mom's online, but it's hard not to have someone to talk with during the day and trade babysitting with. This post is so true and an encouragement for me to reach out and find people to share my life with.

Dais said…

I need a neighborhood friend like that. =)

Can't get my google password to work. I'm Dais, and my website is http://www.JEDSpeak.blogspot.com. I really like your blog.

angie said…

I'm so glad you have that! I want that so much. We live on a busy road. I have SAHM friends and a nice life. There is plenty to do. But, as you mentioned, it requires packing a lunch and forcing the baby to skip his nap. We have our eye on a neighborhood that's just beyond our financial reach… but not so far it's ridiculous. I daydream about morning walks and bike rides with the kids, walking down the street to the park… letting the boys play outside without fear they'll get hit by a car. The school is right there in the middle of it all. One day we'll get there. This post inspired me. 🙂

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