It’s late November. It’s just days before the shopping season begins; roast turkey becomes a daily meal and we’re reminded that nothing’s more important than health and family. My wife’s family is gathering at our house for Turkey this year for the first time in many years. At present, everyone is getting along, though as anyone with a family knows, until we’re actually done eating and said our goodbyes, anything can happen. Fingers crossed.
There’s an old saying that states, “You can choose friends, but not family nor neighbors.” It kind of is what it is. I have been pretty lucky that over the years I’ve had good neighbors. When we moved to Southern California, pregnant for the first time, we were lucky to have a retired LAPD cop for a next door neighbor. He kept a watch out when I was always working and he had the best dog, Toby, a yellow lab. Within a couple of years, we had a dog too. Across the street was a coworker who became a great friend and whose son, was and still is, one of my son’s closet friends. Like me, my son grew up with an African American best friend. It was pure luck that they lived across the street. After all, you just don’t get to pick your neighbors. When we moved to Thousand Oaks, we moved to a new home community where everyone pretty much moved in the same week. Out of 10 homes on our street, there were at one time, 22 kids. It was a crazy. We had a cul de sac softball team, the worst in the league. We had block parties at every opportunity and on every national holiday. We even went camping together one summer and a single dad proposed to his girlfriend on that trip. Wine tasting, trick or treating, it was as Mayberry RFD as you can get. We were just lucky. Buying in a new home community offers opportunities like that.
I sold a home over the summer to a wonderful family with 3 young girls. It was a huge lot, a flat acre, on a cul de sac of just 3 homes. Two weeks after they moved in, the next door neighbor rented their home to a family that had 7 cars and a teenage male driver. From Mayberry to Fast and Furious, overnight. With neighbors, it really is just luck of the draw. That is an extreme example of course, but it is a true story. Usually when buying a home, the repeated visits to the property reveal the idiosyncrasies of a neighborhood, of a street. If it’s all trucks and RV’s, you get a pretty good idea of what to expect. But change does happen and there’s nothing we can do to stop it, we can only try to embrace it. On my street families have come and gone over the years. There are only two of us left from the original group. Most of the kids either went off to college or got married; their parents moved to start new jobs. 5-7 years, that’s the California average stay in a home. It’s just the inevitable, that change happens. While I am no longer as close to my current neighbors as I was with the original group, we’re all friendly. It’s pretty neat to see the new families come in; the little kids chalking the street again, riding their bikes, becoming friends.
As I get ready for the annual rituals of the holidays, I like to think back on the neighbors that have come and gone. Some I chose as friends for life, others become stories and memories of time gone by. I guess the season really is a time for family, friends and reflection; appreciation of the good, recollections of the sadness that life sometimes brings. And so it goes. Our friends we choose, but family and neighbors are what they are and to a large extent, what we make of them.