“I went to a funeral this afternoon”, she said.
The funeral was for her former neighbour, Mrs Holland, who had lived across the street from her parents’ house for around 40 years. This was where mum grew up with her 2 sisters, her brother and a flock of neighbourhood kids. It was the kind of street where everybody knew everybody, and children played freely, regardless of fence lines or street boundaries.
None of these families live on the street anymore – having grown up or passed away – and yet they all came together to celebrate the life of this generous, contented soul who shared their stories and cups of tea for half a lifetime.
I wonder if neighbourhoods like this still exist in our society. We move so often, always searching for our ‘dream home’, or trying to rebuild our lives after a broken home, and I wonder what relationships we miss out on in this endless pursuit of a new life.
Our neighbours are similar in age to Mr Karen and I, with 2 boys similar in age to ours. Mr and Mrs Neighbour are always there if we need a favour or a cup of milk or even just a chat. Boy 1 often hangs over the side fence calling out for Mrs Neighbour or T, their eldest, fishing for a chat or a play date. Sometimes they do synchronised trampolining, calling out to each other over the side fence – between bounces – on their respective trampolines. On days like this I wish to cut a hole in the side fence so the boys can play freely between our two yards.
I hate the thought of moving away from such good neighbours. If we ever sold our house, the sales blurb would read “1930s weatherboard, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, great neighbours …”
While we treasure our next-door neighbours, I have yet to meet any of the families on the other side of the street. Two new families have moved to our neighbourhood in the past 2 years and I have yet to extend that proverbial plate of scones to welcome them and say hello. I suck. I think my heart is in the right place, but my head: I’m thinking about gluten intolerance and how to make nut-free, sugar-free, dairy-free ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood, sorry about your taste buds’ food. It all seems more difficult than it should be.
What are my excuses? We’re renovating. I’ve got a baby. I’ve got 3 pre-schoolers. I’m busy. These are all pretty poor reasons. Both of these families have kids similar in age to ours. We live on the same patch. There’s no excuse really, is there?
If I plan to live in this house for 40 years, I’d better introduce myself to the neighbours. There is tea to be drunk, and with all these children between us, there are far too many stories to keep to ourselves.
Do you chat to your neighbours?