The heat has finally broken around here over the last few days, so we have been able to spend a little more time outside in the evenings. Unfortunately, I have the mosquito bites to prove it. We were playing in the driveway the other night when five or six of the neighborhood kids stopped by to see the girls. The bigger kids were walking around with the girls, pulling their wagon, and letting them sit on their bicycles. Addison and Mackenzie loved the attention, and I loved watching all the kids gathered in our front yard.
When I was growing up, I fantasized about living in a neighborhood where my friends could walk over to play and we could all ride our bikes together. I grew up on a farm, surrounded by pastures and barns. The only people that lived nearby were family members, and though my cousins weren't too far away, the road we lived on was too dangerous for us to walk back and forth. While I very much enjoyed living out there and growing up with a variety of animals in my front yard, it would have been nice to have some company around sometimes.
I was about twelve when my dad remarried and moved into a neighborhood across town. It was the kind of neighborhood I had imagined must exist somewhere...a pack of kids roaming the streets, riding bikes, jumping on trampolines...just hanging out until the streetlights came on and they went home for dinner. I was already good friends with several of the neighborhood kids, so I jumped right into the mix. Though my sister and I didn't spend all that much time over there, and the time I was there was generally spent with my dad, I did get to enjoy a bit of the 'neighborhood feeling' I had never understood before.
When I was in 9th grade, there was a disturbing incident with some rogue skunks at my house out on the farm (that's a whole story for another day; I still shudder at the memories whenever I smell a skunk!). My mom moved us into an apartment in town while she looked for a house. My best friend Kelly lived in the apartment complex, and although we weren't BFFs quite yet, we were able to hang out together and she introduced me to some of the other kids in the area. It was such a fun concept to me that I was able to walk out the front door and see some of my friends.
We weren't in the apartment too long before we moved into the house where my mom still lives. Although it's technically only one street, I guess you could say it was a neighborhood. By this time, I was in high school and was more interested in making friends who could drive than walking to someone's house...which was good because almost everyone in the neighborhood was retired and their kids were long gone. There was a family with a daughter my sister's age, which was nice for her. Still, it was a nice (paved!) street where we could walk, rollerblade (yes, it was the 90s!), and ride bikes.
When Jeremy and I bought our first house, I was still a little enthralled by the concept of a neighborhood where we could actually get out and walk a mile or two, get to know our neighbors, and have someone to pick up mail when we were out of town. Of course, it didn't exactly happen that way...we only really got to know one set of neighbors and another set called the police when our dogs escaped the fence one afternoon, leading to a bit of tension on that front. But it was nice to see kids out playing football in the cul-de-sac and to be able to take the girls on a nice walk without having to load up the stroller and drive somewhere.
While house-hunting a few months ago, a good neighborhood was one of the top requirements on my list. I knew we would be in this house for much of the girls' childhood, and I wanted a place they could safely roam with their friends in a few years. We received housewarming gifts from a few neighbors when we moved in, and after meeting some of those around us, I was sure we were going to love our new little place in the world. On these summer evenings, while watching those kids race up and down the street on their bicycles, catching snippets of nine-year-old conversations as they cut through our yard to the street behind us, and hearing the parents shout that it is time to come in and eat, I am reassured again that we made the right choice.
Before long, it will be our own girls out there learning to ride bicycles, whispering about school and friends and, yes, eventually about boys. (But I hope they wait MANY years before the boy part kicks in!)
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