It seems that our society in general is becoming more and more un-neighborly and that is really not a criticism given the nature of life’s pace today. But it is ironic that as we get more “friends” online and tweet our way into relationships (well, not me), we have less and less time for over-the-fence communication.
When I was growing up, the neighborhood was the world. And this in Long Beach, California which, even then was not a small city. As I remember there were no houses that were out of bounds. There was an open door policy that meant if you were out playing and fell off your skooter and skinned your knee, you would just pop into Mrs. Mack’s for a band-aid if she was the closest. And chances are she had a giant ginger cookie to salve the wound and sent you home with a bunch of her famous “dinner plate” Dahlias. And if you were across the street at lunch time – no problem, you were fed without question or need for checking first with home base. And most likely the Moms (who were probably not working it is true) would be coffee klatching each week and exchanging recipes along with the neighborhood news. Sounds like an idyllic bit of Americana, I know. But really, in many ways it was.
The kids of our neighborhood all played together regardless of age differences whether it was dodge ball or Statue Maker or mixing mysterious concoctions in the vacant lot. We were just the neighborhood gang and if we were putting on a backyard extravaganza the five year olds and the sevens and the nines all had a part. Though I usually wrote the play! And directed! I admit.
The adults were not always having dinner parties, but they definitely had each other’s backs. And they pretty much knew everything about each other. And could count without question that we were all safer, happier and better off because we were a neighborhood. In the summer we played long after dark in the street and up and down the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean because some adult was always watching out for us. That would have been unthinkable even in my children’s time and definitely would not be happening today.
I’m sure that much of the solidarity was a sign of the times. It was the Great War, as it is now called, and just after, and it brought about, along with the very bad and terrible happenings in the world, a time of standing together and yes, a sense of pride in ourselves and determination to persevere and so a neighborhood was just a smaller version of the country.
Robert and I have actually had good neighbors in many places. There was Billy in Portland who mowed our lawn as well as his and when questioned about his motive (was he giving us a message?) simply said that he noticed that Robert was really busy and it was so easy for him to just keep going as long as he was doing his lawn. And a whole group of downtown merchants and “new comers” in Ferndale who gave new meaning to the word “pot luck”. And neighbors in Long Beach who truly became great friends.
On Castenada Lane we REALLY lucked out. And you can see from the happy countenance and general revelry that we are definitely “of a kind”. And I can say from the heart, that just as in my youth, we are not always having dinner parties, but we definitely have had each other’s backs and could count without question that we were safer, happier and better off because we were neighbors.