“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

10.27.2008

From the driveway looking out

I discussed old times with friends this weekend.

Times I didn't live through really. Times I don't quite remember. Not quite. But close. The times of front porches, of closeness, of neighbor helping neighbor. When it was just what people did. When they were all in your business, even when you didn't want it - probably especially when you didn't want it - but they were there and they weren't afraid to discipline your child if he needed it, and there wasn't any ambiguity about when he needed it - misbehavin' was misbehavin' and they knew you'd expect them to correct him. When neighbors looked in on each other, carried your newspaper in to you if you were under the weather, or turned off the water sprinkler if you'd forgotten about it & your yard was getting drenched.

Where did this go? What changed our way of thinking about each other? How did we get so separated from one another? Some blame it on our not staying put, of pulling up roots. I don't know - I think it's something more, and here I may cross the line into some politics, and I apologize, and I'll try not to, but we'll see. Because what I think has happened is a shift in our thought patterns, in expecting someone else to do all those things, and . . . okay, see? This is where I veer off into politics. I don't know how to avoid it & to really talk honestly about this. But there was a time when people depended on each other, on their churches, on their local organizations, on friends, on family, on themselves. People mention to me quite often how lucky Mary is to have me nearby - me and Robert & Katie & JY - and how we are such wonderful people for taking care of her as much as we can, for checking in on her, and while it makes me feel good to hear this, I always think "But isn't that what people do?". Apparently not - apparently it's unusual. But, and this is interesting, it's not unusual among the people I know. The people I know are just that way - they donate to charities, they give up personal time to organize community fund-raising events, to help out at food banks or The Salvation Army. Yes, they give money & they give stuff, but they give time, which is the rarest gift of all, because none of us have enough.

This weekend Mary decided to take a stroll. A short, slow stroll - just to the end of her driveway & out into the street a little ways, accompanied by her caretaker. She grew tired once she'd headed back toward her house, but didn't want to go in. Not yet. It was beautiful weather, and the yard was full of squirrels & the street was full of folks walking their dogs or pushing babies in strollers, so Katie & I "borrowed" the bench from Natalie's yard for Mary to sit on, & settling in with additional lawn chairs on the driveway, we watched the happenings of the neighborhood. Everyone waved at us - from cars & on foot, puppies pranced by for our entertainment, cats wound in and around our ankles, we discovered things about the trees overhead we'd never noticed - we decided we needed a front porch. The 2 girls pictured above were part of a pre-Halloween festival taking place at the park a few blocks away & they flew past almost before I got the camera pointed in their direction.
it doesn't take a village, it takes a porch

6 comments:

  1. I completely agree with you. Mankind has lost their kindness. You couldn't have said it all any better. I ponder, out loud most of the time, to my family that the world has gone crazy. No one cares about anyone anymore. I am that kind of neighbor but you're unfortunately right, most aren't anymore. Isn't it sad?

    I love the fifties look, BTW. That is my very favorite era, when pregnant teens were frowned upon and fewer. Where people had morals and manners (and REALLY COOL cars) ! The clothes, the music, I love it all! Thanks for taking me back.

    Hope Mary is doing okay, it was great that she got out, I'm sure that did her a world of good.

    Happy Halloween to all!

    Love ya...

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  2. It's funny for me to see that I have met nicer and more helpful people in my very recent years here in San Francisco than all the years of my life growing up in middle-class to wealthy suburbs. In every one of the 'burbs I lived in, no one hung out, associated. Everyone drove and no one walked.

    Here, in the city, with all of these little neighborhoods smashed together, people get to know each other. Our houses are all on top of each other. I've been helped and befriended by total strangers and some strangers who became friends, happily enough.

    I don't think the kindness is gone. I just think it takes a little more effort to find it sometimes.

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  3. It is so true that we have lost our connections to each other. So many things seem to have eroded away at it.
    But, we do need those connections, that sense of community. And perhaps our being more transient as culture lends to this.
    And, like maintaining a relationship, it does require a committment and effort.
    But, what great rewards!

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  4. To all - Thanks for the responses. I think you're all right, somehow. I think it's the connections, the closeness, that makes a difference. I want to believe the kindness is there; I think it is, but sometimes it still feels as if people, oh, I don't know, haven't been taught its importance. ??!!

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  5. This reminds me of something my brother did a few years ago.

    It was Christmas and he was living in Vancouver...a big city with its share of coldness and separateness.

    He and his friend got on a bus one night, and within minutes, they had the whole bus singing Christmas carols! They were tired of the distance and created a little togetherness.
    Doesn't take much to break down the walls.

    How wonderful that you set up a bench for Mary and watched the world go by.

    xoxo

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  6. Jaime - And your story reminds me of the time my father was in the hospital. He was dying, in ICU, it was Christmas Eve. The ICU waiting room on Christmas Eve is not a fun place to be, everyone trying to put on a brave face, trying to cope with the sadness of that particular evening. But that evening, the doors opened & a couple came in with platters of homemade cookies & snacks & popcorn. Because they'd been there before, in that same situation, and decided from then on it would be their yearly mission to bring a little joy to those waiting in such sadness. It was quite, quite wonderful.

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come. sit under the emma tree & let's talk. i have cookies . . .