Monday, February 11, 2008

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I know my neighbors. Not just the folks on either side of my house. All of my neighbors on the street. And the next street. And the stLinkreet after that. I know more than their first names and approximate time they leave for work. I know them well; they are my friends. It's a lucky life to count your neighbors as your friends. For one thing, it saves gas since we're literally a hop, skip, and jump away. We never need to schedule playdates. All we do is open the door and let the kids run amok while we grownups enjoy a glass of cabernet, Blue Moon with a slice of orange for the tang, or Moscow Mule, depending on who's bartending.

I have four lots but just one house. Of course there are neighbors' houses on those lots. We literally just swing open the door, and the kid radar starts beeping furiously. All the children, ranging in age from 18 months to 11 years-old, run among all of our yards playing old school games. Freeze tag. Hide n' seek. Hopscotch. Blissfully, no batteries required. Our toys belong to the neighborhood. As long as bats, balls, sidewalk chalk, and jump ropes make their way to a toybox somewhere, it's all good. Bird and Deal are lucky to live in a true neighborhood. I grew up in a similar place. My folks didn't cart us around to activities or playdates. We skipped rocks in the creek in our backyard, sang the tunes from the remake of Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band using the retaining wall as a stage, and caught lightning bugs in jars handed out by Tracy's mom next door.

My neighborhood is a genuine neighborhood that invokes images of the days of yore. If you want to start a story with "Back in the day..." it's my neighborhood that your listeners conjure up. I'm not talkin' an artificial neighborhood with a faux town square clock tower. I'm talkin' a community with off kilter sidewalks, a little post office, an anti-Starbucks coffee shop, and privately owned local drugstore, replete with diner in the back. We walk to run our errands. We walk to the park. We walk just to see who's out and about when we get cabin fever. Bird and Deal benefit in so many ways. For starters, they're walkers, not whiners who act as if they're lugging 300 pound steel boots around like some suburban kids I see. They play with kids of all ages and learn to listen and respect adults who aren't mommy and daddy. They don't watch much TV. Their best friends live right next door. We even have Yogi the neighborhood dog who exhibits gracious patience everyday.

Why My 'Hood Kicks Ass (and why the subdivisions with their back decks don't):

We all have front porches. And we use them.

I have the keys to five neighbors' houses, and they have mine. Someone's there to feed the ornery cat when we're gone. Because she's so ornery we have to rotate the duty.

We literally go next door to borrow a cup of sugar, or a couple eggs, or a gallon of milk.

We cook extra meatloaf, spaghetti, turkey stew, or lambchops and share the wealth.

For 6 weeks after my kids were born neighbors signed up to bring us dinner. I'm talkin' home cooked (and sometimes home grown) extravagant meals, with dessert, wine, and a pair of arms to hold the baby so Mac Daddy and I could eat.

We have parties in the street. Lots of them. We even have a neighborhood lemonade stand that doubles as a tiki bar.

I know someone is watching my kids if I have to run inside to stir the chili, swap a load of laundry, or get ready for date night with Mac Daddy.

Since we don't have family in town, we rely on our neighbors for the occasional babysitting (like when I went into labor with Deal or the times we've had to take one kid or another to the ER in the middle of the night), an extra set of hands to move a desk upstairs, or for a few rounds of Yahtzee and beers. We take care of each other, and no one keeps a scorecard. Well, maybe the kids playing Mother May I do.

Tell me why your 'hood rocks.

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Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I don't think my 'hood rocks, although we have a killer backyard where my boys play. I didn't grow up in a neighborhood or with a sibling close in age. So to say the least I am glad my boys have each other and am envious of your 'hood.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite T-shirts (purchased at Target, of course) -
a pic of Mr. Rogers with the slogan "It's Good In The 'hood". I snatched that one up as soon as I saw it.

One other reason the 'hood rocks -
somebody always has limes for your Coronas when you're out. :)

Anonymous said...

Those great things happen in subdivisions with backyard decks too, it isn't exclusive to just your hood.

TentCamper said...

I would sooooooo love to move there!!!!!! We have actually considered NC. I love the East Coast and loved it when I visited NC years ago.

Find a nice 5 bedroom house for us and we'll be there...with our door wide open for you!