Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Embarrassed Confession as a Neighbor


We've moved twice in three years, which is not normal for us. In both homes, we set down roots, spread our plants and dreams across the yards, and planted fruit bushes that require longevity.

In our last house, a square two-story yellow home fronted by purple maples, four pine trees in a row, and bursting raised garden beds, we enjoyed getting to know our Vietnamese neighbors beside us. Sniffing and salivating from the scent of deep-fried egg rolls coming from their garage, we brought over fresh baked cookies and flower bouquets of pink zinnias and orange sunflowers from our yard. They reciprocated with a plate of egg rolls and a sweet brown sauce. We swapped stories, consulted google translate at times for hard Vietnamese-English terms, and sank happy into their friendly warm smiles. 

Three years later now, that yellow house has been demolished and the green yard is trampled by parked bull-dozers, yellow cranes, and heavy machinery as the city widens roads and adds a water run-off pond there for the large store moving in across the road. 

Several blocks away in our new neighborhood, we have been here almost a year. We're still getting to know our neighbors, swapping bird seed recipes, and gratefully learning how to get rid of crabgrass. We cheered on the neighbors to the right of us as they re-sided their home, and we watched in prayerful concern as the family behind us chopped down a towering cedar pine tree by themselves, sawing it in chunks and dragging pieces down by rope. We prayed, peered out the windows, and wished we could be more helpful.

When we first moved here last August, we printed out our names, address, and a family photograph to introduce ourselves to the neighborhood, leaving those slips of paper in the screen doors of the families nearest us. We walked from door to door, introducing ourselves, and working to memorize their names.

Two weeks ago, though, we failed as neighbors. I'm kind of embarrassed to tell you.

It was the National Night Out, an evening celebrated around the nation when neighborhoods gather to connect with each other. A grey house two doors down from us stapled flyers on telephone poles earlier that week to announce their home as host. They mentioned root beer floats and lawn games. That Tuesday morning we found a taped notice on our door inviting us to come that night from 6:30 - 8:30 pm.

It was the week of our "stay-local vacation," and that night our family had scheduled a special ice cream outing as soon as my eldest got off work. We pulled away before the National Night Out party started, but hoped to be back in time after our ice cream family date.

Can I tell you something I haven't told my parents yet? (Yes, they were part of their city's national night out.) We, um, chickened out.

Driving back from Nelson's ice cream shop, feeling sticky and full, with sweet still creased between our lips, we rolled our car past the National Night Out party and were surprised to see fifty or sixty people mounded across the lawn. The size of the crowd, the sheer numbers of new names to learn, and our sticky hands, shirts, and lips brought a shy introverted feeling to all of us. We waved sheepishly as we passed and then crackled up our driveway, pulling as close to the garage and front door as we could, hoping to be out of sight from the party.

"Do you think it would be terrible if we didn't go?" we wondered aloud.

"Shhh, quick, get inside." And we slipped indoors.

Can I justify it by telling you we were with people all Friday, Sunday, and Monday, hosting several events here? It's true. Does it help to know that?

Yeah, I know. I grin and roll my eyes too. I'm thankful that God laughs and loves us. And I look forward to ongoing opportunities to get to know my neighbors.

(Um, Mom, Dad?...)


Bill (cycleguy) said...

Sometimes you just want to be by yourself-no one else. There is a point in time when spending time with just your family slowing down is good.

Alecia Simersky said...

Sheepishly I admit we have done the same. I want to meet my neighbors but big neighborhood bashes bring out the shy introvert in me. I'd rather meet over a book club or Bible study, heck even dinner. I have to remind myself to make an effort and not be scared to meet new people. As an adult, I hate that I still feel junior high feelings about this.

Cheryl Barker said...

With the overtures you've made, Jennifer, it sounds like you're a pretty good neighbor to me! We all have those times when we don't feel up to a crowd or a new situation. You'll be ready for next time. And by the way, sounds like you're in a great neighborhood with involved neighbors. That's neat! (Not quite the same vibe where we live.)