With the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having this week, Sugar and I have rediscovered our love of an evening walk with the dogs. We finally convinced Spice that walks are FUN and the three of us have headed out every night with the three dogs. This week we have logged seven miles. Not overly impressive, but it’s a nice start.
With these walks, we have the chance to meet our new neighbors. Everyone we pass waves from their respective yards. We see a woman who alternately walks and jogs that always calls out, “I love the dog with the little patch on his eye.” We chat with the dentist who is out walking the fattest bulldog I’ve ever met (her name is Winnie… she was supposed to be a boy named Winston). Occasionally they are joined by his teenaged daughter and Winnie’s standard poodle sister, Lola. Unlike our old neighborhood, there is no bitterness or anger. We smile at everyone and they smile back. I’ve forgotten how good that feels.
We have become quite friendly with one family down the street. In fact, we met them before we even moved in. We’ve had dinner together, we watched the Super Bowl together. We seem to have hung out together during the last two time changes and I think that might be a semi-annual Whoop It Up Night.
I will admit here in Blogworld where no one really knows who I am, that I was a bit taken aback by this family when I first met them. Almost the day we moved in, I was asked to watch on or both of their younger children. I thought, “What the hell? I’ve got boxes everywhere and you want me to babysit?” In recent weeks, I’ve come to see the error of my ways.
She’s asking me to watch her kids because she is absolutely willing to watch mine. On a day I worked from home, she took my kids to a local park and out to dinner. She texts me from the bus stop asking where my kids are and telling me she’s willing to keep them until I get home from work.
What the hell?! This is behavior I am not accustomed to. In the old ‘hood, it was every man for himself. If there was a snowstorm and my car didn’t make it up my driveway, they’d watch as I trudged up the hill in high heels with a four year old and a baby in an infant car seat. When I searched and called for hours for my lost dog, no one helped… but they were entirely comfortable shouting “Shut up” out their windows.
On Fridays I leave work early so I’m home in time to meet the bus. Today was another gorgeous day and the girls ran home to dump their backpacks and head outside to ride bikes, ripsticks and scooters. They were hardly in the door before a friend was knocking on the door to come out and play. They shared popsicles and giggled then headed out to play. Then friends from further up the street texted that they were on their way over to play. Suddenly there were five kids running around my yard having a good time.
Normally I would be overwhelmed by this rabid pack of wild children… but today it was more of a pleasure than a pain. They came inside and descended on the playroom. I could hear them running and laughing while I sat on the couch with a book. Yes, they were all well behaved enough so that I could read while they played.
I had already cleared a dinner out with our first guest’s parents, but Sugar wanted her friend to come along too. I reminded her that I didn’t have room for five kids in my car. She said that the lone boy didn’t want to go anyway, he’d had enough of the girls. His mom came to get him and I took four little chicks to dinner.
Again, normally I would dread something like this. Instead, I was at a restaurant where I spent $20 to feed the five of us, and ate my dinner with four little girls who ate well and said please and thank you. They were so good I bought them ice cream for dessert.
The evening ended with one guest going home right after dinner, while one stayed and the three girls played. The last guest’s mother came to pick her up and she said, “I’ve been meaning to tell you that I’m home during the day and my son is in Spice’s kindergarten class. If you ever need someone during the day, we’d love to have her.”
What? Another helpful neighbor in the ‘hood? I’m beginning to feel like I’ve woken up in the Twilight Zone. This is NOT what I am used to! I am sure I looked like an idiot standing there staring at her with my mouth hanging open. I thanked her for her offer and said that I’d definitely let her know and we’d be happy to return the favor if she ever needed our help.
Incidentally, when I put the girls to bed tonight, I was scared to look in the playroom, thinking five kids had wreaked havoc on it. I found a playroom that was left in the condition it started off in: perfectly clean, all the toys put away where they belonged.
When we bought this trashed foreclosure in a nice neighborhood, I thought we’d be looked at as the family that could afford to live here only because we bought a dump at a low price. It seems like it would be the type of place where people would look down their noses at you. That hasn’t been the case at all. We’ve had neighbors offer to come over and help rebuild. We’ve had people offer to lend tools if we needed any.
We’ve met friendly people that love to regale us of stories of what this place used to look like. They are interested in our plans for the house and seem excited to see what progress is being made. They have not complained (even though I did!) about the appliances EN left sitting on the front porch for weeks.
It’s also not the type of neighborhood where one feels like they are in a Desperate Housewives sort of clique and can only hang with other hoodies. Neighbors are warm, friendly and willing to help, but they give space. I need to reprogram what goes on in my head and offer to help others as they have offered to help me. I need to relearn how to be warm, friendly and open to accepting assistance.
For the first time since I moved from the Midwest some 25 years ago, I feel like I am accepted and live in a place that feels like home.