Like a Good Neighbor

I’ve lived in my neighborhood for almost 10 years. It’s a sweet, tree lined, family oriented little ‘hood, in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. The houses were built right after World War II, for the returning G.I.s. Some of my neighbors have lived here, or their families have lived here, since the houses were built. Kids play in their front yards and ride bikes up and down the street, people carol at Christmas, and at Halloween, you are likely to run out of candy before you run out of trick or treaters.
I’m a bit of an anomaly in this neighborhood. A single woman, surrounded by families. When I first moved in, several neighbors asked me if I was going to be living here all by myself. My house isn’t large, two bedrooms, an office and a single bathroom. But my next door neighbors had four children when I moved in, so I can understand how they thought it odd. Now they have eight kids, ranging from teen to teeny baby. I have no idea where they put them all.
Speaking of neighbors, I feel like I have the ideal sort of relationship with them. I’m on friendly but not intimate terms with the people on either side of me, and across the street. We wave at each other as we come and go, and occasionally chat across the yards. I’ve watched the kids grow up, and bought their lemonade and Girl Scout cookies. I know I could go to them in an emergency, and I hope they know they could come to me. I think I could probably borrow a cup of sugar from them. Or an egg.
It’s been fun watching the kids grow up over the years. When I moved in, the children on both sides of me were very young. But, you know what happens? They get older! Now the teeny little tot to my left is a tall, slender, soccer player who still giggles whenever I talk to her. The teenage boys from the house on the right are now into movie making and will sometimes have a whole crew in the yard filming as I drive up. And the oldest girl in the family, surrounded by older brothers, goes around the neighborhood with flyers for the chores she can do to earn money. It’s very sweet, and might I say, she does a good car wash!
Like any neighborhood, we have our characters. There’s the nice man who has been walking slowly past my house twice a day for the last 9 years. He started with two older dogs, then had one, then had none and now has a young peppy golden retriever to keep him going. I think this man has lost about 100 pounds in the ensuing years, proof that even slow walking is great exercise. Another neighbor is a little creepier, the type that keeps an eye on everyone. He once scared the heck out of me as I was backing out of my driveway, by tapping on my car window. When I lowered the window, he said he had been watching me, but couldn’t figure my schedule out. Eeeek!
Last weekend was the Superbowl, which holds no interest for me. So I had intentionally saved up some of my weekend errands to run while it was playing, expecting to enjoy a near empty grocery store and Target, and then pick up dinner at my favorite, but always jam packed, sushi joint. I waited until the game was about 15 minutes in, and grabbed my purse and headed out to my car. I then saw that my driveway had been about half blocked by someone’s car, actually a Mercedes SUV, although I guess that doesn’t really matter. What did matter was that there was no way I could pull out of my drive.
I saw my next door neighbor outside and asked him if he knew whose car it was, and he said no, but guessed it belonged to someone at the “boat people’s” house, as they appeared to be having a party. The “boat people” are the newest additions to the neighborhood, living across the street and two doors down. They have a boat! They are also fairly young for this street, and in addition to the boat, have all sorts of speedy motorcycles and ATVs and things, and race up and down the street a lot. I wave at them as they speed past. They seem nice enough, but we haven’t gotten to the chat across the yards phase yet.
So I wasn’t feeling too comfortable about knocking on their door to ask about the car holding me prisoner. But Dean, my next door neighbor, had no such qualms and gallantly inquired. Someone came out of the house and looked and said he didn’t know whose car it was but would ask them to move it right away. So, I waited, but no one ever came back out.
At this point I had some decisions to make. Now I know I could have technically called the police to have the car ticketed or even towed. I could have also gone to the neighbors and screamed like a banshee until someone moved the car, but I did neither. First of all, one of my personal codes is “don’t be a dick.” So, even though “they started it” with their own pretty dicky move, I chose not to engage. It’s not like this happens every day, or even, ever before. It’s also not like I had anywhere urgent to go, the only thing I was missing was spending money at Target, and uncrowded sushi access. And not that those things weren’t important, but I made a decision to just stand down, chill out, watch the replay of the puppy bowl (so cute!). So I chilled, but I did keep an eye on the street. And sure enough, a few minutes after the Superbowl ended, I saw a lady leave the house, get into her Mercedes and drive away, freeing my path to sushi.
So here’s the thing, in case you were wondering if this was going anywhere. Being part of a neighborhood, and being a good neighbor, involves some flexibility and tolerance. I don’t complain when the kids next door get too loud, or the semiannual party on the other side of me goes too late and keeps me up. My neighbors don’t tell me that my dogs bark too much. We exchange pleasantries, and plumbing tips, and if we all don’t know each other’s last names, I’m pretty sure we would all have each other’s backs if needed. And to me, that’s what being neighborly is all about.
The end, for now


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