Thursday, August 27, 2009

Friends and neighbors

I knew y'all would have important things to say about the social circle issue. What kind of surprised me was the people who related their own feelings of being excluded, even as adults, in settings foisted upon them by their children's activities. Been there done that, feels like junior high all over again.

It made me think. If enough of us feel that way, there are others out there in the same leaky boat. I like what Stephanie shared about getting up the gumption to reach out, even to someone who initially seemed to have nothing in common with her. I challenge you to find someone like that this week (or next time you're in a group). Look for someone who's lonelier than you and go out a limb to say hello. Or march up to the one of the "in" crowd and see how intimidating she really is. Maybe we'll all be surprised.

So today my kids and I tried our hand at ikebana, a Japanese form of flower-arranging. Since we live in Austin (a word which here means "a city stricken by record-setting heat and serious drought"), our quest for fresh flowers in our own yard and that of our next door neighbor proved fruitless. Time to push farther afield.

Around the neighborhood we went, my son cringing at my proposal to ask unknown neighbors for a twig of blossoms. One must model this kind of boldness. He allowed that it might be acceptable to ask the one lady who actually had some kind of color running riot in her front yard for a small donation, since she was outside working among her tenacious blossoms. She was a bit stand-offish at first, but warmed up enough to give us a bougainvillea and a small smile.

Wow, I thought as we straggled along, Eliza clomping in her Hello Kitty rain boots. I really know so few of my neighbors. We have a few good friends, a few acquaintances, but mostly, I couldn't pick the inhabitants of these houses out of a police lineup. The folks I see passing by or occasionally, in yards, tend to be elderly or childless couples. No one, with the sometime exception of us and the family next door, hangs out chatting in the driveway. (In fact, across-the-street and next-door have something of a blood feud going on.)

In our former neighborhood, we had this kind of relationship with our neighbors: Five of them brought us baked goods and welcome notes within two weeks of our move-in. On our block alone, there were four other boys exactly my son's age. When we arrived home one afternoon to find water pouring through every orifice in the ceiling, flooding the first floor from the second, it was a matter of seconds to deposit two kids unceremoniously at the Goodwins' house and return an hour later. My kids' favorite (okay, only) babysitter lived three houses up. The Tazumas across the street knew exactly when Eliza and Caroline were born (and when to bring casseroles) because they saw the midwife's Suburban in the driveway. And once, during a weekend away in Charleston, we received the following call from Gwenn next door: "Hannah? Are you guys out of town right now?... Yeah, I thought so. Did you mean to leave your back door wide open? No? Okay, good, because I just sent Bill over to close it."

Clearly, we needed the help.

On the other hand, we can raise chickens in our back yard now and no one particularly cares. There's no neighborhood president to cite us for pets that squawk in the morning and invite midnight four-legged prowlers. So I guess it all comes out in the wash.

1 comment:

Tim said...

It's all true about the neighborhoods. I miss the yard chats and the backyard with a creek. On the other hand, here we can walk or bike to the grocery store or library, we have three good pools to choose from (two of them free), no neighborhood association fees, and are within a stones throw of a wonderful biking corridor (Shoal Creek Boulevard). Back on that first hand, South Carolina did have summers that actually came to an end. Pros and cons either way.