April 13, 2008

Being Neighborly

Neal and I often talk about how when we were kids, in the 60s and 70s, people took the time to get to know their neighbors. When someone new moved into the neighborhood, they were personally welcomed and oftentimes greeted with a homemade treat or an invitation to coffee. We knew each others names, their children's names, their pets' names and even what church they attended. The neighborhood kids would play outside until the sun went down, without fear of being abducted, and moms would yell out the door when it was time for supper. We borrowed sugar and eggs, confided in each other, and looked out for each other. We were neighborly.

During our 1o years of married life, we have lived in three different subdivision-type neighborhoods, two in Louisiana and one in Colorado. Now, Southerners are known for their hospitality and camaraderie, but I can't say that we experienced much of either when we first moved into either Louisiana neighborhood. We did eventually develop relationships with a few of our neighbors, but we were usually the first to initiate conversation and display an interest. It wasn't that people were rude or critical, they just kept to themselves and didn't go out of their way to be neighborly - until we met Herm and Eileen.

The house we purchased in Colorado was apparently a rent house for many years, so needless to say, there were quite a few repairs to be done. Because we have dogs, the first order of business was to secure the backyard fencing so our dogs could go out. For whatever reason, there was about a 6-foot wide portion of fence missing between our yard and Herm and Eileen's so that we could easily walk from our backyard into theirs, which meant our dogs could too. Since it is not a very neighborly thing to let your dogs run free in someone else's yard - especially when you are new in the neighborhood - the first order of business was to fix the fence. Neal, being the Mr. Fix-it that he is, found an extra piece of fence from somewhere else in our yard and proceeded to do what no one else had bothered to do before. During the course of cleaning the yard and repairing the fence, he met Herm and Eileen who immediately thought he was a genius.

Herm and Eileen, each 20+ years our senior, are wonderful neighbors and have become dear friends. When I fell down the stairs and twisted my knee and Neal was stuck out of town during a blizzard, they came and shoveled our driveway and steps. When Neal's old Jeep Wagoneer vapor-locked and left us and three dogs stranded in a shopping center parking lot, one call to Herm was all it took to get us home. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, suffered a stroke and died a few weeks later, weekly calls from Eileen were a comfort and a joy. We tell each other when we are going out of town, we go to each others houses for dinner and drinks, and we swap extra homemade goodies over the fence. Just today, Eileen called to Neal when he was in the backyard and handed him a plate of deviled eggs she made and wanted to share. We are neighbors and we are neighborly. And, in this Southern girl's opinion, that's the way it should be.

Now, if only we had replaced the solid portion of the fence with a gate...

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