When Lily was born we lived in a new urban development. It was a kind of Disney version of Mayberry. A lovely place, where every house was well groomed and had the perfect front porch. We could walk to the park, the pool, restaurants and movies… A pretty little utopia situated just moments off the highway. While I loved the ease of it, the novelty wore off in record speed. The houses on my block were so close together they may as well have been attached. The progressive dinners, block parties and playgroups left me longing for solitude, space and secrets.
Next, in Tennessee, I loved my neighbors. It was perfect to have somewhere to dump Lily when we thought Ben was arriving ahead of plan. Comforting to split a bottle of wine on the steps together while our kids slept inside, oblivious to our way of coping with a long day. Easy to have an open door policy where children were free to wander between houses, receiving both snacks and discipline at whose ever home they found themselves in. Most of the time. And then there was the day when my beloved neighbor called at 4:57 AM to chat because she could see through my window that I was up feeding the baby. Again, I longed for some space.
And then we moved here, into a subdivision with cul-de-sacs and communal mailboxes. I made a conscious decision to keep my distance. I’d had wonderful neighbors in the best neighborhoods, but I was ready to fly solo. Our first week here, the queen bee gave us a list of our surrounding neighbors. Each had a little notation next to their name: #2703 hosts the Easter Hunts. #2708 are going through a divorce, but it’s amicable. #2714 Babysits and has a 4th of July bash. That sort of thing. I know she had expectations of us– would I host the Halloween pre-party? Would my kids come over for Popsicles every day? Nope. It’s more like: #2701 Wears black yoga pants everyday, lets her son run around naked on the deck and has never spoken more than five words to anyone.Or something like that.
For the most part, I prefer it like this. I have friends who are accessible by car, telephone or e-mail. I can reach them when I want to, and no one barges into my house without knocking. But it’s not ideal. If I need a cup of sugar or an egg for last minute cookies, I run to the store. The kids don’t have neighborhood friends to play with outside and it’s a pain to coordinate play dates. And it was a bit lonely overhearing the fireworks at the Memorial Day block party from the couch while Jeff was away with the kids. But, I did find my stack of trashy magazines far more interesting, anyway. Maybe in my next neighborhood I’ll strike the right balance, but, for now, I’m happy with this arrangement.
And I always try to have extra sugar and eggs on hand, just in case someone craves cookies.