One time, when I was a kid, my mom sent me to go borrow an egg from a neighbor, because we were one egg shy of a dutch baby. In that moment, something in my TV Land soaked brain popped. Our townhouse development turned from a series of lookalike dwellings into a potential neighborhood: somewhere people would wave to each other while mowing lawns and tip their garbage men at Christmastime with bottles of bourbon. It’s probable I watched too many black and white shows about perfect families and talking horses, or listened too much to my grandparents’ idealized reminiscences. I’m secretly made of idealism.
I became obsessed with the idea of a neighborhood. I would steal carnations from the nearby greenhouse and leave bouquets in door-knockers. I threw away perfectly good ingredients so I could run and fetch them from some seriously confused neighbors. “I’m baking a coffee cake for some reason!” I would announce, “But we’re fresh out of brown sugar – might I borrow a quarter cup?” My budding neighborhood was about 90% first generation Vietnamese immigrants, so it’s hard to imagine what they thought of the little blonde girl begging for food, but they nearly always obliged. When they didn’t just smile awkwardly and close the door in my face. “So sorry, no English!”
Sadly, my valiant attempt to turn a corner of San Jose into a Leave it to Beaver utopia fell short. Roving gangs of old ladies doing Tai Chi slowly took over the streets, and we never had one block party. Not ONE.
When my husband and I moved into this house in Everett seven years ago, our across the street neighbor showed up within a week with a plate of those crispy-rice-treats and a kind word of welcome. We became pretty good friends with them – Friendlier than you might think a couple of functional alcoholic heathens could be with teetotaling LDS folks. They threw me a baby shower and I helped them level their house. Not, like, burn it down, but actually make it level. Because one side was sinking. Anyway, when they moved away, I cried.
Not too long ago, some new folks moved in across the street and I remember saying, “Neighbors are the BEST, we should bring over some brownies!”
But I didn’t.
Which is probably for the best, since it turned out they weren’t so much “new neighbors” as they were squatters in a meth lab.