I would gladly have accepted Mister Rogers’ friendly invitation. Then I could’ve sent my tikes next door for a live puppet show so I could escape to my own “Neighborhood of Make Believe” for a while.
Living in a good hood is a blessing.
I loved the one I grew up in.
It consisted of a double cul-de-sac and a jillion kids. I could walk out my front door anytime, any day and there was something to do and someone to do it with. I think a game of kickball went on continuously in that neighborhood for over a decade. The only spoiler was Mr. Gruff who was obsessively protective of his fussy-groomed grass. If the ball went into his yard we’d draw sticks to see who had to brave the wrath of The Enemy to retrieve it. He also complained to my dad often about us kids not mowing along the property line between our yards straight enough. I never got to hear my dad’s rebuttal because Mom would shoo us away to protect our innocence.
Even the best of blocks have their flaws.
This reality became apparent years later when my husband and I excitedly made our first home purchase in the form of a townhouse fixer-upper. After months of sweat equity labor, we ended up lying awake night after night listening to our neighbors’ domestic disputes through the walls.
We decided not to plant perennials.
We soon moved on to a compact but quaint subdivision where I discovered a neighbor to be a kindred spirit. As fellow frazzled moms, we traded babysitting and combined pots of mac n’ cheese for lunch to let the kids feed while we mommy detoxed.
Eventually our growing family had a hankering for acreage so we moved to the Cache Valley outback. When you live in the boonies, the neighbor dynamic is very different because of distance between houses. I worried my family would be deprived of fond folksy associations. But, though we may be separated by fields, I’m here to tell you we are definitely connected by caring. Proof of this occurred recently when I had to call in a big neighbor favor.
While running errands in town I’d locked my keys in the car. My husband was out of town and I knew my teenage driver was napping in her bedroom. I’d called her cell phone several times to no avail. I got a hold of a neighbor who wasn’t home herself, but said her husband was.
In desperation I called him, “I need a very strange favor. I need you to go in my house, wake up my daughter and tell her to call her mother.”
It was not a beautiful day to be a neighbor for him, but he responded, “She’s probably going to scream, but I’ll do it.”
He did it.
She brought me keys and told me she will forever be traumatized by our neighbor’s face.
I should have told him to change into a cardigan and sneakers as he entered the house. That seems to have a calming effect on children.