26 October, 2009

Being Neighborly

There was a knock on the door last night, just as I was about to bring Jake in from the back yard and serve him up some dinner.

When I opened the door I saw two people who looked vaguely familiar, like I had met them before, even spoken with them, but never been this physically close to them.

It was our neighbors-our new neighbors, who I have only really seen over the short fence on our side yard. It's possible I have only ever seen the husband perched on a ladder.

They were standing there, smiling at me from the front porch, which is only used by Mormons and the UPS man, staring into my downstairs hallway, which doubles as a dirty laundry chute from the stairway that leads to our kitchen, and the rest of the public spaces upstairs. Upstairs: public space. Downstairs: our den. I don't mean a t.v. and plaid couch sort of den, but a lair sort of den. Some friends of ours have probably never even been downstairs. It's where we sleep and do laundry. We nap and have pillow fights, and watch the fish in the tank, but that's about it for the downstairs. Over a thousand square feet of den, private sanctuary. It is also a disaster with boxes and bags of clothing our children have outgrown and shoes that don't work for anyone in the family, unmade beds and pillows askew from those weekend pillow fights.

So I quickly I invited them upstairs, with their sweet plate of cookies (didn't they just move in? wasn't that my job?) and surprised the heck out of Descartes and thrilled Lucy with our guests. I announced that this was actually all much better that they had stopped by unplanned, because if I had ever waited to feel like my house was clean enough for neighbors...especially new neighbors.. then they would never see the inside of the place. We sat in the living room and chatted while Lucy annoyed enchanted everyone with her antics, and Jake played in the back yard.

They are a lovely couple, perfectly friendly and nice, and distantly work-associated with a dear friend of ours, so practically vetted as well. They bought the house from a misfit son and his estranged brother, who unequally inherited the house from their recently deceased mother. The house was sold in haste and not well-maintained for at least 20 years, so consequently these new owners have been doing a lot of work fixing their first home. They are outside all the time; in the back, the front, the driveway. They walk their dog. We are not used to young (our age) neighbors. They might want to be friends. They might come over again.

I'm not sure why that is such a strange idea for me. I grew up in a neighborhood, with neighbors. Everyone had open doors and kitchens with different types of food being served depending on who the mommy was: ruglach, home made tortillas, or Hostess cupcakes, or seaweed and rice rolls, and everyone had KoolAid or Country Time lemonade. My mother walked every day with one or more of her girlfriends, her neighbors. I think I was in every kitchen or living room on our 28+ house lane save for one. Even crazy Margaret with the 14 poodles invited us in once for candy. The POW and his wife invited us into their garage, which was essentially their living room, for Popsicles, and it turns out Daniel's dad was not a Russian spy, they were just a family from Russia, so once that got squared away we went their too. Every mom knew who every kid was, and everyone had each other's phone numbers.

So what's my deal? Maybe I've gotten used to our privacy? Descartes made us live on a hill, so the houses are all bit off set, and as I said earlier, our front door is not often used since it is two full flights of stairs from the sidewalk. Maybe this is the last step in being a grown up, as if the mortgage and the life insurance and the two kids and the Desert Sand Mica Not-So-Mini Van were not enough, maybe having neighbors, our age, next door, being all mature and responsible with their yard work and their car washing and their furnishings that match (although I actually don't know this to be true) maybe it just makes me look a bit at our own life, and it makes me a wee bit uncomfortable.

I so do not have it together. Not. Even. Close. I think I was just starting to be okay with that.. you know, take small steps towards together but not sweat it so much.. and then poof, here they are, those neighbors, with their precious plate of cookies and their kind smiles. Can you believe I'm moaning about nice neighbors? Especially considering we have the not-quite-committing-any-crimes, still-falls-into-the-mischief-category family across the street, using band saws at 2am and helmetlessly riding mini-bikes up and down the sidewalks. What a whiner I am.

The cookies these kind new neighbors brought last night are almost gone, my children saw to that, so I need to go figure out what I am baking to send back to them on their plate. I think that's what a good neighbor would do.
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