I grew up in a home that was never locked. Not even when we went away on vacation. There are no keys to the farm house, at least that I know of. Even though we didn’t live in a neighborhood, there was always a neighborhood feel to our home. You could look a half mile east, up Roth Road and see any car or pick-up that was approaching. And with that glance, nine times out of ten you knew exactly who was driving.
Sometimes I wished that we could live in a real neighborhood. Specifically, a neighborhood with sidewalks so I could learn to roller skate, like Beezus and Ramona Quimby. Sometimes our little corner of the country felt too quiet, and I imagined that I’d live in Seattle or Portland someday, and do all the things that I thought people in neighborhoods did. Like maybe playing kick-the-can in the streets or hanging out on fire escapes. I think my idea of neighborhoods was heavily influenced by A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series.
By the time I was finally living in honest-to-goodness neighborhoods there wasn’t a lot of kick-the-can going on. Come to think of it, there weren’t any fire escapes either. But there was a lot of other stuff, that seemed even better in my twenties. My college rentals in Portland were usually surrounded by people who were ready to socialize, anytime day or night. Santa Rosa brought the surreal tranquility of a suburban neighborhood, which I enjoyed along with the parks, the YMCA, and plenty of good restaurants. In Cambridge there was the best running partner ever and some temporary adoptive parents that graciously allowed me to lean on them through September 11th and graduate school. In Chapel Hill we could walk to anything we needed or wanted, and sometimes I’d run into my middle school students on Franklin St. When we bought our first home in Edgewater, we loved walking around the corner to the best Thai restaurant in all of Colorado.
Those neighborhoods were all lovely, but it was always clear that each was a temporary situation – each home had someone else’s history attached to it, not ours. None of the spaces really felt like home, not like my circa 1923 farm house.
When we moved to Volcano, Hawaii, I thought the relationship with our new neighborhood might last. There were great families within walking distance, and we could bike and run in the middle of the road. Our biggest worry was wild turkeys running into the road, not cars. I think I probably could’ve roller skated the loop eventually, if we’d stayed.
By the time we made it back to Colorado, for the second time, I really wanted to find a home and neighborhood where we could take root. The first time we walked into the Grove St. house it reminded me of the farm house and I was sold. We’ve been here three years, and the house has treated us well. The neighborhood has also been a blessing. Our neighbors on every side look out for us, and we’re getting to know more people as we go.
Tonight, at Sam’s urging, we walked across the street to meet new neighbors who were playing soccer in their front yard. Sam is shy at first, like me, so we held hands as we crossed over to bravely introduce ourselves. And it turned out okay. The boys (with Bella doggedly tagging along) kicked the ball, raced to the corner about twenty times, and made a plan for future Lego play.
I don’t know if we’ll stay in this neighborhood forever, but I’m thankful for all that it’s providing us right now.
I’ve seen kids flying down our street on scooters, so maybe there’s hope for me and my roller skate dreams yet.