Thoughtful Thursday: Neighbor

February 2, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

Oops, I only managed to post one Thoughtful Thursday in January, so everyone who commented on that post is a member of the February Intelligentsia. It was a particularly difficult question, though, so you earned it.

#28: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#24: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#24: Lost In Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#20: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#16: Ernessa from Fierce and Nerdy
#12: Kristen from Dragondreamer’s Lair
#12: Tara from Turkey In My Oven
#11: Ana
#10: just-gave-birth-to-a-marvelous-daughter St. Elsewhere
#9: Mel from Stirrup Queens
#3: Sara from Aryanhwy
#1: soon-to-give-birth Celia from Breeder Beware
#1: Chickenpig from Better Full Than Empty
#1: Sam from Communique
#1: Two Kayaks from As Big As the Sky

Thoughtful ThursdayThe reason for my silence last month is that we are now in our new digs. We are here. It was not easy.

One thing I really sought out in choosing this house is that it is in a neighborhood — a true old fashioned neighborhood, the kind that doesn’t seem to exist anymore, where the owner of the market knows everyone by name, where almost every dog owner we have passed has paused to introduce Burrito and Tamale to their dog.

As for my actual neighbors, the previous occupant of this house gave me some advice I have found to be true, “The neighbors to the south are really great. The ones right behind you have lived there forever, they can refer you to any sort of handyman, plumber, etc.” And that was it. She specifically did not mention the neighbors to the north; I don’t yet know whether they are neutral or bad.

It’s funny that I should seek out a neighborhood, given that I am not very neighborly. In our old house, we barely interacted with our closest neighbors — not that I didn’t try, but after the 4th no show to a party, I stopped sending invitations. When I ran into the neighbor a few months ago, she said, “Your baby must be so big now!” More than two years after they were born, she did not know I had twins.

In the house before that, we interacted with only one neighbor. He was extremely neighborly, but he never got our names right. Never. Each time we’d see him (almost daily), it was a fun game to see what he’d call each of us.

My mother, on the other hand, was beyond neighborly. She knew every person on the block, and she’d fill me in on all of the minutiae of their lives over the phone. “Doris’s daughter got a new job.” “Ethel’s son came over to do laundry again. He never sees his mother unless he wants to do laundry.” “The kid next door was mad at me because I only bought 2 boxes of Girl Scout cookies from her, but I have 4 other Girl Scouts I have to buy from!”

I like the idea of neighbors. In practice, though, I don’t enjoy small talk, and I’m not great at feigning interest in others. I like having someone that I could call to borrow something in a pinch, but I rarely do the work to foster the relationship beforehand. Presumably as Burrito and Tamale get older, I will appreciate having kids around with whom they can play, and adults around who will keep an eye out. If a neighbor ever asked me to do something neighborly like water their plants while they were out of town, I’d gladly do it, but no one ever asks. When it comes to favors for me, I rarely want to impose on anyone. Maybe all of that will change, now that I live in a real neighborhood.

What kind of neighbors do you like to have? What kind of neighbor are you?

18 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Neighbor”

  1. We also just moved. Well, hardly “just”, it’s been 2 months now, but since we moved 18 days after Gwen was born, and have thus spent the last two months unpacking all the boxes and sorting out life with an infant, it still feels like we’ve just moved. We only have one immediate neighbor, to our left, as we’re on a corner and across the street from us is a Texaco. We haven’t met the people who live there yet, but I believe from what I’ve seen through the windows it’s a single guy. We did meet some of the people living two houses further down, since twice while we’ve been gone and the post office has tried to deliver packages they’ve left them there and we’ve gone to pick them up. The time I went it was an older lady who spoke English about as well as I speak Dutch, but that’s enough to have a little bit of a conversation!

    While I don’t have much to say on the subject of neighbors, I have noticed a big difference in interactions with strangers in Tilburg compared to Amsterdam. I don’t think it’s just that now I’m usually out with an adorably cute baby, I think it’s just the people, but I’ve had to stretch my conversational Dutch a lot more than I had to in Amsterdam since lots of random people will strike up a conversation, or throw out a random remark as I’m walking past (luckily I’m beginning to get good at all the basic baby conversation, to recognize what I’m being asked and to know how to answer “It’s a girl”, “It’s my first”, “She’s 12 weeks old”, “Yeah, she sleeps well/is warm enough/it’s cold out”!)

  2. Rebecca Says:

    I am a shitty neighbour but I also HAVE shitty neighbours, except for the Chinese guy two doors down who takes in parcels for me and always says hi 🙂

  3. Two Kayaks Says:

    I’m almost certain you can imagine my answer to this question. J. and I have been living in our neighbourhood for 12 years. We were the first house erected and watched the entire subdivision develop around us. We only know the neighbours on either side of us and by “know” I mean that we know their first names. We nod and say hi to each other when meeting, but that’s pretty much the extent of the “relationship”. We are respectful and cordial to the point that I will shovel their part of the sidewalk and have been known to shovel their entire driveway if I know they are both at work and I have the time. They, in turn mowed our lawn when I was in the hospital for a week when I birthed the twins. It’s a distant, but friendly relationship. I’ve seen, over the years, what happens when neighbours get too friendly and then have a falling out. You can’t escape them and it gets awkward fast. There’s a reason for the saying, “Good fences make good neighbours”.
    Glad the move is done and you are getting settled. I heard you had lunch with a friend of mine. 🙂

  4. a Says:

    We live on a cul-de-sac with 3-4 other houses (depending on where you draw the line). Everyone is pretty friendly, while doing their own thing most of the time. Our favorite neighbors, who lived next door, retired to Florida and I still miss them. They were replaced by a military family with 2 kids who are close in age to my daughter. I thought it would be great, until my old neighbor said that the new woman was “weird.” When my old neighbor says someone is weird, it’s definitely worth taking notice. She was friendly at first, and then, suddenly, when she saw us coming home or coming outside, she would grab her kids and take them inside. I don’t know why and I don’t much care – I’m not going to let anyone make me uncomfortable in my home, which includes my whole neighborhood. Plus, I know they’ll be moving within a couple years. But the rest of our neighbors are great – we’re not in each other’s pockets all the time, but they always have time to talk to my daughter or let her play with their dogs.

    I’m not good with the small talk, but I’ve managed enough to get in the position that there’s someone I can call in an emergency.

  5. a Says:

    Hop your new home is a wonderful place for Burrito and Tamale to grow up – and that you guys like it too!

  6. BB Says:

    Wow – you moved already! Hope the kids are settling in well with the new neighborhood! 🙂

    I have grown up in an overly neighborly – neighborhood ;)… it was good while growing up. You could plop into anyones house anytime, eat at any ones place, or invite some one over right away! But, this was in a different country and a different time!

    Now, I love to socialize, but I like my space. We have interacted with most folks with kids around us. I could easily call two of my right next door neighbors in case of an emergency… and that level of comfort matters to me, especially with kids at home. And we have even figured out that we could probably have a twins group in our community (lol – we have too many in our neighborhood).

  7. Ana Says:

    Congrats on being moved! Such a big undertaking.

    One of the reasons we moved into our ‘hood as that we thought it would have a sense of community. We reached this conclusion through the experience of our friends, that live on a very close-knit block. Unfortunately our block is not similar at all. I think its because its on a big, 2-way street, so its not as “neighborhood-y” (we live in the city, all the “houses” are rowhomes, or rowhomes turned into apartments). There are students renting on one side of us, they are nice enough but really young, and keep changing. We were encouraged when a nice young couple moved in next door on the other side, but though they are friendly in passing, they haven’t really responded to our overtures (we invited them to parties & they never showed, baked them holiday cookies, etc…they had several parties and we were never invited!) We can pop over to borrow sugar, or ask them to water our window boxes, but it hasn’t gone beyond that.

  8. Elana Kahn Says:

    Well, we live in a two-family house. Our downstairs neighbors are ok. Their first language isn’t English, so it can be difficult to talk to them, so we really don’t speak much – really only when something goes wrong with the house and we need to deal with it. In terms of next door, we don’t know the people who life on our left at all. Well, we know they have a dog and that’s about it. On our right are people from the Jewish community who we do know quite well and consider to be good friends. For the people that live in the downstairs apartment, we have eaten meals at their house, and our youngest were born less than a week apart. For the ones in the upstairs apartment, we haven’t known them as long but we are friendly and say hi when we see each other.

  9. Welcome to your new ‘hood!

    This? This is me. “I like the idea of neighbors. In practice, though, I don’t enjoy small talk.”

    We have and are pretty good neighbors, meaning that we are kind to each other. I do know how many children each one has, but I’m not super inquisitive past that.

  10. strongblonde Says:

    i want to have great neighbors. the kind that watch out for you, shovel your driveway when they know you’re not home and it has just snowed, tell you the gossip/happenings in the ‘hood. i’ve got some of that. we have two houses on our block right now that are totally empty-one’s a foreclosure, one is a house that couldn’t sell and has been a rental until three police cars showed up in december and it’s been vacant since. the neighbors immediately to our south are young, but everyone else is a grandparent. the neighbor to our north is a nice widow who came over a lot when the kids were born. her husband had just died…i think being around kids was helpful. the neighbors behind us asked if they could offer our playset in the back yard to their friends. when i was 8 months pregnant. it was totally weird.

    but in general i don’t like small talk. but having kids has done two things: forced us to be outside in our yard more as well as made people want to talk to us! 🙂

    also: just so you can understand how anal i am–i don’t want to forget any neighbor’s names, so i keep a little map with their names/houses/dog names/etc in my kitchen!!

    glad you’re getting settled in the new house. hoping the old one sells quickly and that you can totally move on!!!

  11. St. Elsewhere Says:

    I like to live in a place where everyone-knows-everyone. The flip side is the gossipmongers that exist in such a thing, but sometimes, in a sense of community, very wonderful connections can exist. I do not think that it is possible to know every single neighbour well, but if the neighbourhood allows a chance for communication, and caring, and a chance to laugh-along, or support, and also permits my children company of their age, it would be perfect.

    Here at my mum’s place, she is surrounded by a general miscellany of people… and mummy has forged good connections, even though she hardly has the time for casual chit-chat. It’s the kind of neighbourhood where you can keep a spare key with a neighbour, the neighbour will collect mail for you, or generally watch out if someone who is an outsider seems to be hanging around. There are issues as well….some rivalry between people living in different lines, money collection every month, a neighbour who turns in dead-drunk every few nights and curses his heart out….

    In one city that I stayed for a few months,( a while back), we (DH & me) were looked upon as ‘outsiders’. Not only were the neighbours not-friendly, but they did not even attempt to be cursorily pleasant. I never visited any of them. In a new city, with no social connections and with people generally skeptical of us, I had a hard time adjusting, and was glad to leave the place.

    In the apartment we occupy in UsualCity, we know almost everybody in the building. It is not like that I have somebody turning in, or I visit everyone every evening, but if you pass by, smiles and pleasantries will be exchanged. There are also get-togethers, so there is enough opportunity to interact and know people. My immediate neighbour however is very nosy. There is a difference between being curious, and being sniffy for gossip, and she falls in the latter category.

    People readily exchange numbers of carpenters, and electricians and all that…so it is okay. So far, I have not really needed middle-of-the-night urgent help from anyone, and I haven’t been put into the same position myself.

    As a person, I am approachable and smiling, and I tend to form acquaintance very fast. However, I would not like to take it beyond that unless I really want to, or if the other person is really nice, and if circumstances make such relationships possible. Plus, when I return home (again in UsualCity), I prefer to have some quiet time for myself, rather than take out time to meet and greet people around me.

    And thank you. Do you remember last year’s Jan Intelligentsia post…

    I hope you like your new neighbourhood, and that your neighbours are all nice….


  12. Tara (TIMO) Says:

    In Tucson, we never knew our neighbors at all. Here we were good friends with the ones to our left. They were also military and same rank (so same ages). Plenty in common. We would hang out together. But then he deployed for a year right when the boys were only 2-months old. So it was tough trying to help the wife out even though we offered plenty of times. When he got back, things completely changed. She had mowed the grass that we shared and trimmed the bushes (and we did the same when we did yardwork, it’s just that she was out there much more often) but then overnight that all stopped. They all but ignored us until they moved. The new neighbors are also military but on a different schedule and a different lifestyle (much younger, no kids, both work/school). We never see them at all.

    The ones on our right are okay. We’re cordial and stop to chat if we cross paths. We just discovered she’s pregnant but only by a visual and not because we’ve talked to them in a while. They really helped with doing yardwork and maintenance of our rental property when the boys were first born.

    Nav is hoping to move into base housing in ABQ. I imagine it will be a much different atmosphere when everyone is military.

  13. Cat Says:

    We are the newest people on our street and we have been here almost seven years. The next newest have been here 7.5 years, and the next newest after that have been here about 30 years. There are only eight houses on our short little street, both sides included, and there’s not a lot of turnover. Everyone knows everyone, but they know my husband more than they know me because of when he does lawn work stuff in the front. I mostly stick to the backyard. Plus, I don’t go out of my way to chat with people. That has changed since staying home with the kids, though, I’ll now talk to anyone. Truly, anyone. We see the people to our West the most and have been asked to bring in their paper when they travel. Our front sidewalk is shoveled by whomever gets there first and it’s not usually my husband. It would be nice to see the people whose yard borders our back lot line more often since they have kids close in age to ours, but we can’t see when they’re outside unless they go deep in their property and they must usually stay up by their house. That sounds like I’m stalking them, but it’s just how their property is laid out in relation to ours, especially since they’re around the corner on a different street.

    My in-laws have always been really neighborly. They know everyone and keep up on what’s going on with them all. I like the idea of that, but it also seems like just “too much” somehow. Too much work? Maybe. Too much involvement in each others’ lives? Probably.

  14. Don’t drop dead of shock, but I’m a terrible neighbor. I never stop to chat. I barely wave a convincing hello. Still, the really nice thing about living in a townhouse complex is that you’re surrounded by people. I love being surrounded by people — interacting with them? Not so much…

  15. celia Says:

    I live in an awesome neighborhood. Our house is ugly, too small. has a crummy yard and there is a major highway a few houses over. IT IS STILL AWESOME. The kids all know and play with each other and slam in and out of each other’s houses. Most people have either lived here their whole lives or moved here because it is affordable. The pizza place around the corner has been there almost 30 years and they stuff Peter with animal crackers, our town is so small they don’t even bus. Everyone walks to school. The librarians know my son by name. When our cat was lost after we first moved here, the school sent a flier home with every student so they could look for our cat AND our cat was a topic at the borough meeting. The freaking chief of police helped look for our cat. I didn’t even lock our door till Peter figured out how to open it. My next door neighbor comes over at least once a week. It is fab. We have one crappy neighbor but nothing is perfect. Every time we sigh about how much our kitchen sucks and how we don’t have enough room we are kept here by the awesomeness of our town. Many MANY nights will find us all outside sharing a bottle of wine when the weather is nice. Everyone knows us since Peter was such a fussy baby and he had to be walked all the time. I live in Bristol Borough, PA and I would suggest to anyone looking for a welcoming and family friendly environment.

  16. loribeth Says:

    You & I have a similar attitude towards the neighbours, I think. ; ) We have lived here 22 years. It’s a square, or enclave, I guess you would call it, not a lot of traffic. Kids play street hocky in front of our house all the time. We thought it would be a great place to raise kids, and it probably would have been, but of course, we don’t have the kids. Everyone else does, which makes us sort of an oddity. :p

    When we first moved in, the neighbours to the south of us had two little boys & very soon had another boy & a girl. They used to ask us ALL THE TIME when we were having kids & “don’t you just love them?” Ugh. I was very glad when they moved away (just before my short-lived pregnancy, as it worked out). The couple who moved in got pregnant right about the time I lost Katie. Their daughter is six months younger than Katie would have been, and has served as my “yardstick” all these years as to what she might be doing. They have been very nice neighbours. We don’t visit each other or anything, but he & dh chat while they mow the lawn or shovel snow, and the little girl comes over to sell Girl Guide cookies & hit us up to sponsor her for Jump Rope for Heart. They take in our mail when we’re on vacation & we do the same for them.

    The couple on the other side moved in about a year after we did & have a boy & girl, now about 20 & 16. They are friendly, but a little, shall we say, rough around the edges? The wife threw the husband out about a year ago — turns out he was a closet alcoholic — we had no idea. Her mother often stays with them — which often means there are four cars in their driveway (including a truck, a station wagon & a minivan), which sometimes makes it hard for us to get out of ours in the morning. :p They have almost always had a golden Lab, this one is their third. Last year, the son also got a beagle. The damned beagle barks & howls incessantly whenever he’s let out, and since we are surrounded by dogs in this neighbourhood, that gets them ALL barking & howling. Inevitably, it’s right about the time we’re trying to sleep. :p

    The people on the other side of them are the neighbours nobody wants to live next to. The lawn is rarely mowed, the garage door seems to be hanging by a thread, the roof had bare patches on it, and there was an old washing machine that sat out on the front patio for months. One of the neighbours finally called the city & complained and they finally put on a new roof & mowed the lawn. But it still looks pretty ramshackle. If it looks that bad outside, I shudder to think of what things are like inside.

    We don’t really know the neighbours in back of us, except that one has a Rottweiler who rushes up to the fence & barks & growls whenever dh mows the lawn back there. :p Another called the cops on the little girl next door & her friends when they were making too much noise for her liking on the backyard trampoline. It was a Sunday afternoon and they were all about 7. :p But of course, nobody can say anything about her dog & his barking, which is almost as bad as the beagle’s. :p

    Sorry, didn’t mean to write a book!

  17. I really like the situation we have right now – we live in an apartment building and are pretty close to our upstairs neighbors, they are a Spanish/Dutch couple with two kids who go to the same sitter as our son. Our son is really fond of them and he stayed with them/they brought him to the sitter on several occasions when we had to go to the hospital for our IVF/FET procedures and for the birth of our second son. We also sometimes babysit their kids. Then one floor above them is a family of four with a son the same age as ours and an older daughter. They sometimes have playdates too. Then we occasionally use teenage girls from other families in the building as babysitters. With other neighbors we have friendly relationships that don’t go much further than small talk, there are also the occasional unfriendly ones who don’t even say hello when you see them in the garage or the elevator. I play in a music trio with two other neighbors and we’ve had three times a “fête des voisins” which was nice too, and should be repeated I think so people know who the faces around them (and hopefully that will prevent some of the break-ins that occur on a quite regular basis in our building).
    Personally I’m not great with small talk, but I’m always willing to take care of mail and/or water the plants, or have neighboring kids over to play with our son.

  18. Heather Says:

    We never really knew our neighbors well until this last move. Four of the houses close to us have girls Phoebe’s age, so we know all the parents as we keep tabs on where the girls are. Another neighbor had our babysitter there until she went away to college last fall. The neighbor directly across the street I don’t like too much, but I don’t really see them much and the wife just moved out. I feel bad for them both on that though.

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