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Neighborhood makes people feel welcome
VITAL TRIFLE, BY LAURI GROSS
Neighborhood makes people feel welcome
They say fences make the best neighbors. In my neighborhood, there are no fences, so it must something else that made my neighbors so good. I really like them. They are like family. They know things about you that others don't. They will do you favors on short notice. And you occasionally steal a glimpse of them in their pajamas in the backyard.
There are just 21 houses in our neighborhood. A dozen of the original families are here from when the houses were first built about 13 years ago. We have been here for 12.
When we moved in with our toddlers, only a few families on the street had kids, and most of those were very young. Soon the street had its own population explosion, and then there were kids everywhere. Some have since gone on to college, and some have been replaced with other young families who have moved in with a new crop of little ones. Some of the neighbor girls used to babysit my kids. The next thing I knew, my daughter had become the babysitter herself.
We've had the same school bus driver since we moved in. When my kids were little, I sometimes failed to make it home in time to get my kids off the bus. No worries. A quick call to a neighbor meant my kids had someplace to go until I got home. The bus driver knew any of us was happy to take a neighbor's kids, if needed.
It is a good neighborhood for dog lovers. Most families have at least one canine. Many are kept in their yards by invisible fences, and others by instinct. Still, the dogs visit each other on leashes or when they happen to venture beyond their own boundaries. We notify each other when there is a dog on the loose, checking to see if someone's pooch has made a break or anyone knows anything about a stray that might have shown up.
For years, there was a pure-white stray cat who hung around our garage and then under a neighbor's porch and elsewhere on the street. We shared stories of "Frosty," which we named him for his color and the fact that we discovered him in the snow.
For several years, we also had neighborhood ducks. They lived in a neighbor's pond two doors down, but they wandered and nested everywhere.
Over the years, our cul-de-sac has seen many spontaneous kickball games, snowman-building efforts and groups of kids on bikes. For several summers, we held block parties. We filled the cul-de-sac with folding tables, food and party favors we gave out as prizes for games like the egg toss and Hula Hoop contests. Once we had tractor races, complete with a bracket, a la March Madness.
There have been first-day-of-school donut parties and last-day-of-school ice-cream parties. We gather for barbecues, Super Bowl parties, birthday and graduation parties and also for funerals.
Many of us have gardens filled with each others' perennials. Daisies, black-eyed Susans, lilies, irises, peonies and more have been shared from one yard to the next.
We've borrowed each other's tractors or even cut each other's grass when the necessity arises. We have helped dig each other out of the snow a few times and out of the mud many, many times. We all had so many stories of getting our tractors stuck in the mud while mowing that one neighbor joked we should set up call boxes on the street. Instead of a phone, each box would contain ropes and hooks to help pull tractors from the muck. Few things will bond you to a person like helping them get their tractor out of the mud. When you are both standing there, splattered from head to toe, you really get to know a person.
Most of us have some kind of fire pit in the backyard. Whether it's a hole in the ground or a more permanent stone structure, each serves as an impromptu neighbor gathering place for marshmallows, hot dogs or just sharing stories.
Halloween is fun on our street too. We all comment on how big the kids have grown, if we haven't seen them for awhile, or catch up on news with the adults. Many of us offer pumpkin ale or other Halloween-themed libations to the parents who come to the door with their little ones, and it's fun to compare notes on which house was decorated the best or gave out the best candy.
I love the sight and sounds of neighborhood kids running around together. On any given afternoon, it's not unusual to see a group of kids spanning a wide age gap all playing football or riding bikes together. There is, of course, drama of who said what about whom and who is being a big jerk each day, but the ebb and flow carries on happily. When we look out the window, we never know who will be jumping on our trampoline or catching a hail Mary pass or dodging the next snowball.
Chances are, though, when the kids have gone home, we will find something of theirs left behind. There is a constant shuffle of returning each other's sweatshirts, shoes, socks and toys forgotten in someone else's yard.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
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