Sunday, December 6, 2009

Meeting the Neighbors

We visited out old neighborhood last night and it made me homesick. I still miss it. It was an amazing place to live. I loved it there. It wasn't just the 15 minute bike ride to the beach. Or the 10 minute walk to the kids' favorite park. The fact that I could stroll down the hill and be on 2nd st, an old fashioned down town where I could have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, get a coffee, a new sweater or a light bulb . It wasn't the beautiful homes or tree lined streets.

It was our neighbors, the people we saw everyday. We knew people just because they walked their dogs by our house each day. Like Jeff, and his Jack Russel Terrier, Widget.
We knew our mail man. His name was Mann. And the boys cheerfully greeted him each day, "Hello Mann, the mail man!" He knew their names, too. When he was gone for 3 weeks, he apologized and explained he'd been with his wife. She'd had a miscarriage.
We'd have so many chili parties to go to on Halloween that it would take us hours to trick or treat 2 blocks.
When we brought our first born home from the hospital, neighbors came out of their houses to see him on our first walk around the block. "Oh, you had a boy!" And when one neighbor, Bobby, asked if James liked being rocked, we confessed we had no rocking chair.
"What? You can't live without one. You can use ours. We rocked all 3 of our kids in it." He promptly went inside his house, came out with a rocking chair hoisted over his head, and carried it down the street to our house.
When William came along, neighbors we didn't even know showed up with food. "We saw you had a new baby," they'd say.
It was lovely.

But this is Southern California. And we are a single income family. And even though the real estate prices have fallen, when we were finally able to buy a house, we couldn't buy in Belmont Heights. It was a hard reality to face. The day we moved, I was really sad to leave.

I've known my whole life that when I had babies I'd stay home with them. That decision doesn't come without certian sacrifices. And though I don't regret for a moment my choice to be a stay at home mom, I would be lying if I said that I was less that thrilled when I had to admit we couldn't live in the Heights any more.

This house we bought, I love it. From the outside, it's not much to look at. But we've done a lot inside. It has our handprints on it. And we've got big plans for the rest of it. I have said that I wish we could pick up our house and transplant it to our old neighborhood.
You see, I'm still pining.

We've met some neighbors, but it's not the same. There aren't any other little kids. People have bigger yards here, so we don't see everyone out walking their dog. We don't run into them down on 2nd St. When our neighbors asked us over for 4th of July we said we couldn't and went to celebrate with neighbors from the old hood. And, in one of my lowest points of parenting thus far, when one neighbor came over and asked me to keep my kids quiet in the morning, especially the screamer, I just decided, I love my house, but I don't really care about this neighborhood at all. My heart wasn't here.

Now it's Christmas. One of our traditions is to make up triple batches of lemon bread and deliver it around the neighborhood one evening. We'd stop and visit with people. The kids looked forward to it as much as we did.
I was getting ready to do the same thing this year. To go back. We've been gone 6 months. It's time to see everyone again.

But then I stopped. This is my home now. These people are my neighbors. These are the people I need to open up to. To give them more than a courtesy smile and wave as I drive by. These are the people I'd like my kids to help, to rake leaves, pull in trashcans, hang May Day bouquets and give lemon bread to. I needed an attitude adjustment. I needed a change of heart.

So we got to baking.

These were my helpers. If you've never baked with a 5, 3 and 1 year old, I don't reccomend it. Unless you are comfortable with a lot of chaos. And the chances that you will loose count while putting in the sugar or flour.

We used my Mom's sweet Myer lemons. There is no better variety. Both the peel and the juice are needed for this recipe. That is why the boys love this bread. They get to use tools.

Into the oven,
They came out lovely, like always. We bagged them still warm and tied on a handmade tag.

And then we set off. All three of the kids wanted to hold the basket. Making deliveries is fun.

Lilly was the first one up the steps. Even Sally cat came with us. It was the whole family.

We told the kids to shout, "Merry Christmas!" when the door opened. Lilly was really into it.

We walked from house to house to house together.

Sometimes people weren't home,

and we'd just leave their bread on the door step.

But the people that were home seemed happy to see us. They loved hearing the kids yell, "Merry Christmas!" When they held the bread, they all said, "mmm, still warm." We chatted for a minute or 2 and made a connection.
We let them know we cared. That we are glad to be their neighbor.

We came home to our house aglow with Christmas lights and the kids bouncing all over the place. It was fun, we decided. It is fun to give. Even something as small as a loaf of lemon bread, to say, I'm glad to be here and be a small part of your life.
We're going to do the whole block.


jennifer said...

that bread looks so yummy. and i love the pic of the christmas lights on the house. great composition.

Lillian said...

Thus blog.....those pictures....they make me feel incredibly happy.

Susan said...

This is a great post and it really resonates with me. We have almost always (since we've been married this past 10 years) lived in an apartment in an area where people were constantly moving in and moving out. Heck, we've moved three times, too. When we first got married my husband was in grad school, so we were living in university housing - with not too many kids, sadly. then he finally got his phd and we moved to d.c., where everybody around us was moving due to having a government job or whatever else so making friends wasn't easy at all. And now we live so close to uc san diego, with a lot of college kids and not a lot of kid kids, and even more moving in and out. Because of this, I keep waiting to someday - if at all possible - live in a neighborhood and finally plant my roots down deep. Heck, for the first two homes we've been in I barely even felt the desire to put up pictures of our family. It's so sad.

Thank you for this reminder - which I've found over the years that I need on a regular basis - to live where I am, when I am. To be here now.

Hugs to you. And yay for freshly baked bread and kiddos in the kitchen :O) I don't know how to cook any other way!

Jackie Cook said...

What a lovely poignant story. Get's you thinking which is what your blogs do Greta....keep it up because it's special

Erin McDonald said...

thanks for that reminder that we are live where we are. I have dreamed about living here for years now and well here I am seven floors up in a high rise and only know one real neighbor ( not for lack of trying) and just dream of the day when we too have a family and live in a community where people know and care for each other! I know there are seasons and this is one I need to enjoy for it too will pass! I too miss our old place in Riverside! but I love it here too! I am glad you got out there and meet your new neighbors and shared your sweet children and yummy bread with them!
I love you!

Erin McDonald said...

I forgot to mention that I LOVE Lilly's hair! Pig tails are so cute and hers were way cute!