We moved into the neighborhood as newlyweds, just three weeks shy of getting a puppy. A month later, I was pregnant, and nine months after that, I had our first baby. By then, I barely knew our neighbors’ names. However, another nine months go by and just when my son was learning to crawl, I started a community garden. I had to petition our homeowner’s association to get permission to use communal land and was given permission. The deal was that I would tend the garden and share all the produce.
A few months after planting our veggies, I had enough to share. I wrapped everything up into six individual bundles and went door-to-door knocking and offering our veggies. That was when I started actually asking questions about my neighbors and taking the time to get to know them: How are you? Have you ever had homegrown basil? How is your daughter? How are you feeling? Is chemo going OK?
I started actually asking questions about my neighbors and taking the time to get to know them.
I always brought my son with me on these deliveries and before long he was the one running to each door, ringing the doorbell and saying hello. We learned all about the shy divorcee and his retirement. He was often a bit melancholy due to chronic pain, but he was the first person my son wanted to hug. We learned about the widow’s move from the East Coast and how much she missed her big garden on acreage before her husband passed. We learned about the victory garden our 87-year-old matriarch of the cul-de-sac had growing up and how much she missed her mother tending it.
Inevitably, we got close to people whom we would have otherwise never really paid much attention to. The way of neighbors is not commonly close. We don’t just pop in unannounced anymore to see friends and cousins. We don’t borrow a cup of sugar because we can have that delivered now. The longing for that closeness is there though. We learned how much these wonderful people really cared for us and enjoyed watching our family grow.
Inevitably, we got close to people whom we would have otherwise never really paid much attention to.
The ultimate lesson that I learned was how these strangers enjoyed being included in our lives, however periphery. They wanted to buy gifts for our second baby and celebrate birthdays with us. They wanted to drop off flowers when my father passed, and they wanted to revel in the passion I had for gardening too. They wanted to be there for us, and us for them. They wanted connection and to be known.
They wanted to be there for us, and us for them.
There was so much satisfaction for us in delivering those veggies each week and so much love with each passing wave and smile. We came together as a community and found ourselves sharing glasses of wine and lemonade often by the end of our tenure there. We have moved to a new neighborhood, but our family still longs to know the neighbors, to connect in the cul-de-sac and share laughs. We long for that feeling of closeness and “I got your backness.” We hope for the love that people can share no matter how different they may be and the loveliness it can add to life.