Posted in Coffee and Conversation, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Parenting

Who Are the People in YOUR Neighborhood? : Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own.

So settle in, and I’ll get you a cuppa something refreshing, and let’s have a conversation…

How well do you know your neighbors?

I recently heard a news story that said we don’t know our neighbors in the way previous generations have. People move around more, so neighbors come and go more quickly than they once did. We’re busy with work, activities, electronic devices –

Our own lives are full of busyness, sometimes to the point where we might almost forget we have neighbors – where we exist in a kind of tunnel vision, where they’re only on the periphery of things rather than a vital part of our lives.

I live in a rural area, on the same country road I grew up on. It’s a little funny, to me, because I’ve traveled the country, worked in national parks, had my feet washed by both the Atlantic and the Pacific. I’ve hiked in the Grand Canyon, crossed the Continental Divide, and scuba dived in Key Largo.

And here I am, only a few hundred feet away from the home I grew up in, the place we moved to when I was only four and a half years old.

I know many of my neighbors, in theory. There’s the elderly widow and her son, who live next door on one side; I went to school with her grandson, and the father of the family who lives on the other side of us, and the three children of the couple on the other side of the street.

That’s about half the families in our six-house cluster.

So I know them – and yet, I don’t.

We’re not exactly an insular community, but it seldom goes much further than a wave and a few words exchanged. We’re not unfriendly, but we are, somehow, in some way, rather detached from one another.

I hadn’t given this much thought, until my daughter began to say that she’d like to bake some cookies and go meet our neighbors, get to know them, talk with them, see the insides of their houses instead of just always the outside…

And then, last week, I dropped her off at my parents’ house down the road. It was a very hot day, and humid, and she didn’t want to walk. As I pulled into my own driveway, I noticed my neighbor’s other son, the father of the boy (okay, a man in his 40s, now) I went to school with. He was tending his mom’s yard, as he often does on the weekends. Because he usually seems focused on what he’s doing, we generally nod or wave and move on.

But thinking about what my daughter had said, I stopped, and made a comment about the weather – which led into a twenty minute conversation, there under the murky and blazing summer sun.

We talked about our lives, his son, his wife and children. We talked about our homeschooling, and his years of driving a school bus, a job he’s recently retired from. We talked about the world, family history, our aging dog, and cats.

We talked about life, and the weather, and yard work.

And, at the end, I felt that I knew this quiet man better than I ever have, even though I’ve known him, to some degree, for most of my life.

We haven’t baked any cookies yet – July in upstate New York isn’t the best time for such a venture. But, when autumn comes and the weather cools, I’m not going to forget my daughter’s wish, or that conversation with the man next door. We’ll get some cute containers, make some cookies, and carry them to the other five houses in our little cluster. We’ll offer something sweet, and hope to get to know our neighbors – the ones we’ve never formally met, and the ones we thought we knew.

I expect we’ll laugh, and talk, and connect, and learn things about one another that we didn’t know….

How about you? Who are the people in your neighborhood? How well do you know them? Can you learn more about them? Reach out, in some way?

I don’t have cookies today, but I’ve got a wide range of refreshing beverages. Here, have another cuppa whatever tickles your fancy, tell me a bit about yourself, and let’s be neighbors!


I am myself. I own my life, and live with three other people who own theirs. My intention is to do only those things that bring me joy, and to give myself wholly to those things I do. Writing has been my passion throughout my life, and this will become the home for my writing life...because it brings me great joy!

10 thoughts on “Who Are the People in YOUR Neighborhood? : Coffee and Conversation

  1. The neighbors on either side of us are well known. Graduation parties and weddings…but the kids were the wrong age for my kids (well, not the wrong age, just not the friend age) and I often wonder if relationships would have been different. I don’t know. What I do know is our kids stretch us–I love, love, LOVE that your daughter wants to see the inside of the neighbors’ houses and not just the outside–It’s like a great big juicy metaphor for getting to know your neighbors! She’s a genius.

    1. She might be, at that! =D

      And she loves metaphors.

      One of the things that keeps us from interacting more with the other families with kids is the not going to school thing. Because they don’t, they aren’t tied to that schedule.

      And, when parents tell their kids that they have to go to school to learn, and then here we are, with kids who clearly learn without anything that looks ANYTHING like school in their lives (because we’re just about the polar opposite of school), I think that’s inconvenient, so the parents don’t encourage the kids to play together.

      Seems like it might be easier to say that there’s lots of ways to learn just about anything, and some kids go to school, and some don’t, and it’s just a difference in choice….

      But, at any rate, maybe that will change if we come with cookies! =D

  2. My family hasn’t really known all that many neighbors over the years, and of the ones we’ve known, they haven’t been close friends we visited. I remember all the stories about my paternal grandparents’ colorful neighbors, particularly the Ulishnies and then the later neighbors who annoyed my always-angry aunt so much with every little thing they did and seemed to do.

    Then there was the odd couple who lived next door to us when we lived on New Scotland Avenue in Albany. The husband was such a jerk, particularly to children. He was that guy who got so mad when kids accidentally hit a ball into his yard. The wife got really upset when she got wind of how I’d told Joshua, a neighbor down the street, how her husband had stolen and burnt all our toy tools. She didn’t want people thinking her husband was a bad man, though he certainly never did anything to demonstrate he was a nice fellow in all the years I knew him. When I was older, my mother was horrified to learn I’d made the Nelson ha-ha laugh after he sneezed, with my window open. If he did hear that, he didn’t say anything.

    1. *Always-angry aunt*….that description made me wince in sympathy.

      I don’t like neighbors being mean to kids….well, anyone being mean to children. I’m not saying everyone should want to have children; but we all WERE children. Kids can’t help being young and inexperienced, but adults CAN help acting like jerks. The fact that some don’t doesn’t make it OK.

      It’s odd to me how some people are more concerned with the image presented than by the damage their or their loved one’s behavior can cause.The wife might have been better off to help her husband understand that he was infringing upon the rights of others. But, then again, maybe she’d felt his wrath, too…

  3. You’re such a doll. I’ll have to say that it’s a testament to your home town that you’ve traveled extensively and been moved by so many places, yet come back to your grounding place. Must be awesome.

    I’ll admit I don’t know my neighbors as well as I could. I have this thing about space and not wanting to intrude on others but who knows perhaps the neighbors feel the same way?

    1. Honestly, we moved here so that our kids could know this side of their heritage. In a couple of years, we’re planning to move to Oregon, so that they can absorb the other half.

      My Accomplice had a chat with another of our neighbors earlier this week – he was inquiring about the kerosene tank we replaced but haven’t yet recycled. He said they moved to this area so that they didn’t need to be involved with their neighbors on a constant basis. So maybe there’s something to be said for those wanting their space…

  4. I live in such a rural area, I can’t even SEE my neighbors. I live way back almost in the woods. And there’s lots of woods between any neighbors. And, actually, my mom is my closest neighbor, and there are woods between us. Through the woods on the other side is a road. Across the road in the front of my house, the neighbors’ houses are like mine…set back so far that you can’t see them.

    1. That’s how it is at my FIL’s house, in Oregon. It’s lovely and peaceful – and there’s a diner and a coffee kiosk a few miles away that serve as something of a social hub for the area.

      I’m looking forward to moving to that area – but, first, we’ll get to know our neighbors here a little better…

  5. I was somehow expecting people to be lined up at the door waiting to say “howdy!” when I first moved here, but it never materialized that way. I do know many of the neighbors, by sight if not by name, and certainly the people who live next door to us on either side. The lady who lives directly across the street is an election judge; the first time I met her was at the poll during the last election, and they had lived across the street for several years by that time.

    There was a friendly old man who lived across the street with daughter and son-in-law. He and his wife had moved in with them. We hadn’t thought much about it, but then he started acting strangely, the first signs of Alzheimer’s. They finally had to put him in a facility after he disappeared one night. Then, it was like the cavalry; Mary and I, and several of the other neighbors, drove around the neighborhood for half an hour looking for him, and others walked and checked back yards for him. Turned out he was sitting in the back yard right across the street, cold and hungry. The people who live in that house were out of town, or he might have been found sooner.

    It isn’t like we’re (meaning everyone, not just Mary and I) unaware of the people who live in the neighborhood, just that we’re all caught up in the minutia of daily life. That might have as much to do with why people aren’t as “friendly” as they were in the old days as anything.

    When I was growing up, everyone knew everyone else and we used to see each other all the time, but that was Chicago and we were all in close proximity. The alley behind Glenwood and Wayne Aves. was a big gathering place for all the kids in the neighborhood (and there were a lot of kids), and a lot of parents were out with us. But that was 50 years ago…

    1. John,

      I’m so sorry that it took me so long to get back to this comment – I got a little buried in life, and words…

      The people on either side of us are people I’ve known most of my life. The dad in the family on the right was a friend of my older brother’s.

      It may have taken a while to meet your neighbor the election court judge, but at least maybe you can see her every election, right?

      It’s wonderful that your community came together to help find the missing man, and get him to safety. I’ve cared for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia – it can be terrifying for them and their family if they wander off, and then can’t find their way home – or maybe even remember where home is, since they might be thinking of a home from decades earlier.

      The vibe in our neighborhood seems a lot like ours. Everyone has their own things to do – but it is an aging community; most houses are occupied by people with grown children, or teens.

      We’re somewhat out of sync because the kids aren’t in school, and Jim’s a chef, so he doesn’t work 9 to 5, or have weekends off, as most of the neighbors do…

      Many people keep their kids at home, these days. I think that makes a difference, because parents often meet through their kids.

      Again, sorry this comment is so very belated!

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