I have been fairly candid about my disillusionment about the friendliness of neighbors. It has been humbling because I thought that after the 5th grade gang-ups I’d shed myself of the burden of caring about fitting in, but I was wrong. Aching to belong lingers, no matter your age or place in life. Being the kind of person that uses humor to get past these things, I’ve often made light of our situation with our neighbors.
The truth is that we live in a lovely neighborhood. We have the best elementary school in the district a stone’s throw from our house, we walk to the Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning, we have three grocery stores to choose from, each within 2 miles of our house, and, despite my grumblings, we are blessed to have some wonderful ( and exceptionally colorful) neighbors.
This week my mom and sister are visiting, their mission, to get me off my feet and take care of things around the house.
“Now, don’t do a mom-is-coming-to-visit cleaning blitz before I arrive.”
And I didn’t, at least not like we usually do. We did put some toys away and pass my beloved Dyson through the dried macaroni and crushed leaves wake that runs from our front door to the kitchen, but the laundry stayed dirty and I didn’t run Clorox wipes over every imaginable surface. Unfortunately, I spent the first three days of their visit kind of tearing ass through the house, following the girls as they chased their aunt and just generally enjoying having them around.
Friday I hit a serious wall, cartoon style. I’d been going, going, going, when all of a sudden I thought, “Maybe I should lie down.” The next thing I knew my face and the sofa began to resemble a memory foam diagram, the left side of my face completely submerged in the cushion. There was a vague sensation of clouds passing, which I realized was a person slipping past me and laying a blanket over my inert form, voices in the distance:
“You want to go to gather leaves?”
“Uh-huh, let’s get together some leafses.”
“Ok, we need to find your shoes.”
And then it was quiet. I’m not sure how long I slept, but when I woke my contacts were stuck to my eyes and I looked around sheepishly as I slid a pillow over the shocking pond of drool I’d created. I sat for a moment taking stock of the situation.
No dog. She always curls at my feet when I nap.
No sounds. No computer, no music. No girls.
Stillness. No clanging in the kitchen, no whirring of washing machine.
They were gone.
I stood slowly and slipped on a pair of shoes. Then I walked outside, the brightness of the afternoon a shock. Standing outside our house I listened for them, thinking I could at least determine which direction to walk. Nothing. No one in the backyard, no one down our block, so I turned left and headed to the corner. I’d not walked ten steps before our neighbor called to me:
“Amanda. Are you looking for them?”
“They just walked that way, should be right there.” She was indicating down the street I was facing. I lifted my hand and called out a thanks. Taking a few more steps, I paused at the corner. Three doors down a head popped up.
“They just walked that way.” She said pointing her thumb down the street.
“You should be in bed.” She called out with a smile.
“You’re probably right,” I returned rather feebly, still dazed by the immediacy of the unsolicited help.
“Yes,” I shielded my eyes and looked further down the street.
“They just rounded the corner and should be coming your way.” A male neighbor shouted.
“Now go put your feet up.” He said as he went back to raking.
I shook my head. This neighborhood, these people, people I have yearned to belong to, had, in one unchoreographed, and heart piercing gesture of awareness and consideration, demonstrated that not only did they know we were here, but they cared. They cared that I was getting enough rest, cared that I wanted to know where my girls were. The emotion of receiving such old fashioned, good neighbor kindness made my heart swell. People were looking out for me and for my family. I cannot fathom a more precious thing to have than that.