Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Love Thy Neighbor
Last Sunday, I baked too many brownies, so I put some on a plate, wrapped them up and left the plate along with a note just inside my neighbor's front porch. A few minutes later, one of them knocked on the door and came in for a chat while I made him a cup of tea. I showed him our garden plans (more on this soon!) and when John got back from the gym, they watched cricket together for a bit before he headed back next door. It was one of the loveliest, nicest interactions I'd had with anyone all weekend.
The same neighbor came to one of my orchestra concerts at St. John's Smith Square last year with his father (who showed up in a suit - it was nothing short of adorable), a retired black cab driver who always gives me stick when he sees me, albeit with a grin and a twinkle in his eye. Sometimes when I fall asleep on the couch while John's away, I can hear the very faint strains of their TV, which comforts me and reminds me that they're just on the other side of the wall, in case I want/need to pop over for a cup of tea and a chat.
Our other neighbor takes in packages for us while we're at work and brought around an enormous box of chocolates when we hosted our Christmas party last year. Whenever I talk to her about our plans to change the fences in the garden or prune back the branches of the trees that originate in her yard, she waves her hand and says, "I'm easy. I honestly don't care what you do!"
As an American who's used to having lots of space and living in what they term a "detached property" over here in the UK, I was hesitant about terraced living. And by "hesitant", I mean horrified. I couldn't think of anything worse than being sandwiched in the middle of a row of other houses, sharing walls and garden fences, and not having much privacy.
But when we moved to Walthamstow last year, all that changed. I managed to lock myself out of the house one evening after I'd headed home from work early because of a heavy cold. One of our neighbors who lives a few doors down saw me sitting on our front step and joked, "What's happened to you then?" as he walked past. I explained that I'd accidentally locked myself out and he jerked his head back toward his house saying, "Go on and see Michelle, then. She'll take care of you." So his wife appeared within a few seconds with the lovely smile she always has and said, in her wonderful East London accent, "Come on, then!" While I glugged coconut water on her couch, she kept me company for over an hour, telling me interesting stories about her family but not prying into mine, unless I offered. I wanted to cry from her kindness.
Sometimes, when I am feeling unsure or uncertain or sad and I'm alone in our house, I turn off the TV and music and I listen for those faint strains of sound coming from the other side of the wall. I think of how I'm surrounded by the kindness of the people who live around us and how that kindness seeps through the walls that separate us. And then I'm hit by a wave of gratitude that won't go away.
Do you get along with your neighbors? Do you love/hate them? Who's the best/worst neighbor you've ever had? Let me know in the comments!