“Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends.” — John F. Kennedy (Happy Birthday, Mr. President!)
Last year, actress Gwyneth Paltrow split from Coldplay front man Chris Martin, posting on the blogosphere about their “conscious uncoupling.” It was a phrase rather cumbersome to my ear, and I eschewed the woo-woo, “I’m okay/You’re okay” vibe of it. Gwyneth wrote, “In many ways we are closer than we have ever been,” and, “While we love each other very much we will remain separate.” Psychotherapist Katherine Woodward Thomas describes conscious uncoupling as “A proven process for lovingly completing a relationship that will leave you feeling whole and healed and at peace.” And here I thought breaking up was hard to do.
As a consequence of selling my home and heading out on the road, I’m breaking up with my neighbors. I want to be at peace with it, but dammit, I’m gonna miss them.
For 13 years I lived on a very short street between two numbered streets, the inhabitants of which rarely mingled. Both streets hosted Neighborhood Night Out block parties on the first Tuesday in August, and I made a duo of potluck dishes and flitted between and betwixt. The neighbors on 20th and 21st occasionally saw each other at my (mostly) annual summer parties, holiday open houses, and on Halloween.
Ohhh, Halloween. In my best year I welcomed 175 trick-or-treaters. I handed out airline-sized bottles of booze to the parents, “A little something to warm you on your walk!” There was the graveyard, the song “This is Halloween” on a continuous loop on the outdoor speakers, and last year – the cannibal barbecue, complete with sizzle sounds. I watched the neighborhood children grow up before my eyes, eventually aging out of trick-or-treating, declaring it to be “stupid.” Hey, candy is never stupid.
I lived adjacent to original owners, then renters, then IT professionals, which really typifies the evolution of the little hamlet of Ballard. Some neighbors retired and moved away; others died. I sipped wine with fellow residents during a power outage. We stood nervous, at the ready with water hoses on the Fourth of July. We kept watch for one another, signing for packages, gathering mail, and bringing in trash cans so as not to signal when someone was away. We shared meals and handymen and landscapers and walks through the park and pet sitting. I know the name of every dog for a 10-block radius, but only about half of the names of their humans – funny how that goes. One neighbor is giving the menagerie and me a place to stay until the RV arrives, and another is storing Christmas ornaments, cookware, and a hard drive in her garage if or until I settle down again. A family has offered the vacant lot next to their home as a parking lot for Nellie whenever I am in the ‘hood. There are at least 10 houses in two blocks where Olive will get a treat and a belly rub, and my usually shy and scared girl whines with happy anticipation at each one.
I will miss the mumbling eccentric who rants about magnesium and getting cancer from street lights; the fellow who shares a piece of Ballard history with me on his way to church; the nosy and bossy lady with the heart of gold; the young woman with the rainbow hair who reminds me so much of myself at her age; the children who walk by the house on their way to and from school each morning and afternoon; the dairy delivery van whose presence always reminds me it’s Thursday; next door, the son’s tuba and the daughter’s cheerleading practices on their deck; the grandpa on the corner with the continuous garage sale; and so much more.
Even though I will no longer be living in the Atomic Abode by August, I think I’ll stop by both block parties for Neighborhood Night Out, just one more time.