In the time that my husband and I have been married (not quite 13 years) we have lived in 1 apartment, 1 rental home, and owned 3 houses. This means that we have been dealt the full spectrum of neighbors over the years. In our apartment year we were young, had two big dogs and no kids. We talked to no one. I literally could not tell you what a single one of our neighbors looked like. At that point in our life we were both working. We both had a 40 minute commute (if there was no traffic), and we were both working jobs with long hours. (He was a Football GA and I was a high school teacher and cheerleading coach.) We didn’t “need” neighbors. Our dogs were quiet, so the neighbors didn’t hate us. Life was easy.
Our second home was in a small town, and we had an older couple on one side and a single woman who had the single most well cared for gardens I could ever imagine. Our neighbors to the left invited us over for karaoke in their garage. They were kind to us, and I got to chat with them some as I was outside with our 2 young kids. They were low key starter neighbors, but my neighbor across the street was abundantly kind, and I had no idea how to be a good neighbor to another mom with lots of kids. (She had 4! Can you imagine! Oh, I was so dumb.) She brought me homemade bread. My babies were so young I didn’t know how much I would need an adult to talk to or a friend for my kids. I did not deserve her.
When job changes happened, and we were looking for a house close to where my parents lived we were able to be a little bit slower in the house hunting because we lived with at their house for a few months. We all survived, and we still love each other, so I put that in the “win” category. We eventually found a foreclosure very near the house with the dreaded raccoon latrine, and we loved it from the moment we walked in. As soon as the smoke smell disapaited. The bank had replaced the carpet, painted all the walls, and put in new laminate floors in the kitchen. It still smelled like a backroom poker game. We got the house cleaned up, and it was a wonderful home as our family grew to 5. But our next door neighbor literally tested speakers for a living. I am not making this up. He would set up a speaker on his driveway and play high pitched noises for HOURS during the day. We spoke to each other a handful of times, but the number of times I plotted violence against his speakers is infinite. Fortunately, just around the corner I found one of the best people I have met in my life. My friend Jen was like a ray of sunshine in my life then, and through the magic of technology has continued to be a touch point of faith and my mentor mom for difficult situations.
We soon moved for a new job opportunity at our Alma Mater and found a lovely rental home on the railroad tracks. Directly on the tracks. When trains went by the house shook. They were required to honk when crossing an intersection at night. We had two intersections within a 400 yard span. The honking would. not. stop. The stretch between intersections was just long enough to serve as a 24 hour resting place for idling trains. The train idle noise haunts my dreams. Our neighbor to one side was 100% either a vampire or allergic to the sun. I NEVER saw her outside of her home. She left (for work presumably) before the sun rose and returned into her darkened garage late at night. We welcomed baby #4 in that home. Our neighbors to the other side had their first child right around the same time. We both named our girls Grace. One of the saddest parts of leaving that house was that our Graces weren’t old enough to place together before we moved.
This current home finally brought us into a neighborhood. With families. And no trains! Our neighbors are kind and normal…leading me to believe that WE are the “crazy neighbors” now. Which just sort of happens when 7 people live in one house. There is a lot of noise and stray baseballs flying over the fences. Our youngest still forgets to wear pants to go outside on a fairly regular basis and the Nerf gun battles are rowdy. But this neighborhood is special to us. Just down the block are the women who have supported me through the birth of baby #5 with meals and extra hands with the other kids. The dads have coached my son’s baseball teams, and multiple doctors have been called after office hours to consult on various household injuries. We send our kids to school together, to little league together, to church together. We stand in the driveways talking while our kids play. We share costumes for school projects and ingredients for last minute meals. These neighbors, this village, is everything I could have hoped for.
But really I needed all those stops along the way to appreciate this neighborhood the way I do. I needed the less than fabulous neighbors to appreciate the fabulous ones. I needed the mom of 4 I couldn’t relate to to help me when new moms think I’m nuts. I needed Jen to teach me how to be a good neighbor and friend. And with 5 kids and a busy husband I need THIS village so much now.