Friday, November 10, 2006

The World I Live In Now

My new neighborhood is a neighborhood in flux. Back in the early sixties, it was built with university professors in mind - and that's mostly who lived here. The last professor that I knew of went into a nursing home this past summer and his house went up for sale. There is a 90 year old woman who lives on the next street up who is the original owner of her house. The other neighbors have moved in sometime between 1970 and now. That's a big time span, if you think about it. 36 years. And my point is that not much changes here. A lot of the people who live on my street have actually lived here for most of the last 36 years... but that's beginning to change as they die out or move to nursing homes or in with their children.

When this process first began, it seemed like the children of the older residents looked at Mom and Dad's house as a cash cow. Rent it out, rake in the dough. It's only 3 miles to the university and the students have money to spend. The die-hards still living in their houses hated it. A neighborhood association was formed to promote a greater sense of community, and it joined up with two other adjacent neighborhoods in setting standards. Between the three neighborhoods are 12 registered boarding houses (where more than three un-related people can live at one time) and the rest are considered single-family dwellings.

On my street, we have one obvious rental. It's right next door to me and the residents are three college-aged men/boys. They're not bad as neighbors... In fact, I've never even laid eyes on them. On football weekends they sometimes party a bit loudly, but our bedrooms are on the other side of the house and we don't hear them unless we go outside. If there are other renters (besides ourselves and the college boys), I don't know about it.

So the trend seems to be back towards family-style homeownership here. This makes me happy. I love the idea of bringing my son up in a place like the one I grew up in. In some ways, it was nearly ideal - a few families with kids, interspersed with lots of older, old and elderly people. We learned about trespassing, lending a hand, being polite, listening respectfully, protecting your community and death in that setting. We made a killing cleaning houses, sweeping roofs, and raking leaves in that neighborhood. Sometimes we made money... sometimes we just got an icy coke and some cookies. But we always made friends.

Now my family is helping to open up this neighborhood to the same sense of community. When we first moved in, people would walk by the house with their dogs like we were invisible. So we started talking first. Waving. Decorating for Halloween. Cleaning up the yard. Planting flowers. Making it obvious that we cared about where we lived. Offering to help our neighbors when needed. We've been here four months and it's a different place. Neighbors stop and chat with each other. We know the dogs and the cats of the neighborhood. There's a lot more waving and some of the yards are looking much better and houses more cared for. The postman commented yesterday as I stood in the road talking to the kid that moved here from Japan - he's never seen this neighborhood more alive.

Feels good, doesn't it?


Anonymous said...

The country place will be just that. A place of fond memories. As you stated you are already making changes to the neighborhood based on a way of life we once knew. I still find myself worrying about the older people in my areas. We seem to adopt them and they us.

You do realize that you are a rare breed in this day and time because too many of our age tend to ignore the elderly. There is no respect for our grandparents and where we came from.

So for the doors your family has opened and the changes made to the neighborhood I applaude you.


Kevin Charnas said...

Yes, it does...and HAIL to you guys for doing things "first"! Will will say how some of the neighbors don't even acknowledge him and then I'll say, "did you acknowledge them?" and he'll say "No..." And I'll try to encourage him to wave or to say "hi" first. It's kind of amazing what opens up when you do...huh?

It feels good knowing that you're out there. :)