Within a period of about two weeks, the house down the street sold, moving trucks came and went, and suddenly there were new neighbors on The Lane. It all happened so quickly, we barely had time to bid farewell to the couple who left us. They were very good neighbors, but mostly kept to themselves. So their departure did not resemble the gut wrenching tear-fest we had last year when Sue, Chris and Maya left and moved to Connecticut. In fact, almost all the collective emotional energy of THIS turnover went into anxiety about who would be moving into their house – not the fact that they were leaving it.
I’ve talked here at MoB about The Lane – the private street where we live. Nine houses comprising young couples, octogenarians, empty nesters, middle agers – all living in perfect harmony. Truly. I’m sure there are many other similar streets across this great nation of ours, but our Lane has always felt special. There is a level of comfort we have with one another that brings us out of our houses on Fall days to chat in the street, beckons us into each other’s living rooms for a glass of red wine, or compels us to gather for impromptu pot luck suppers on random evenings. When you move onto our Lane, you don’t just buy a house, you get a community.
That is exactly my fear whenever someone new moves in. In the last five years, we have had three houses turn over. Last week was the fourth. And like the three before, I found myself standing on the front steps after the moving truck had gone with a bottle of wine and a heartfelt welcome for our new neighbors. And (thankfully) also like the three new arrivals that preceded them, the new couple (with young son and dog) were completely lovely – and I knew immediately they would be a terrific addition to The Lane.
But I worried that we might smother them with our open arms.
Because behind my welcome came others as one by one, each of our neighbors dropped by to say hello, all within a few hours. And yesterday, we tweaked a pre-wedding brunch for one neighbor to also be a “welcome” celebration as we all gathered together to enjoy each other’s company.
Our new neighbors remarked that this was the “most welcome” they have ever felt anywhere. The comment made me happy because that it truly how we roll here – but part of me wondered if that was code for “OMG we moved to freaking Stepford.” I’m now consciously thinking about the coming week and giving them some space – just to show that we aren’t THAT invested in one another.
Isn’t that funny though? Despite the fact that our new neighbors gave us no indication that they were overwhelmed by our efforts, I am worried about appearing TOO friendly. When did “being neighborly” feel like overstepping? Have we turned so far inward as a society that yesterday’s welcome wagon is today’s space invaders?
I would haphazard a guess that there are many people today who don’t know their neighbors well – or maybe at all. It seems the era of baking a welcome pie or borrowing a cup of sugar has gone the way of paper boys and milk deliveries. And to me that is sad. I am a huge proponent of progress, but I fail to see how taking the “neighbor” out of “neighborhood” contributes to our greater good.
There are so few opportunities in life where a community awaits us. A neighborhood is perhaps the easiest – for here there is no need to seek common ground as it is right beneath our feet. All we have to do is move beyond our own thresholds and step outside.
Welcome Craig, Amanda and Callum! I think you are really going to like it here.