The words “their life support thru all their years were the neighbors” struck a chord in me.  About my maternal grandpa and grandma, the sentence was describing.

I can remember names heard frequently.   Weaved into conversation as routine as a prayer “thank you for this food” before we would eat.   The family at the end of the road, who bought the family farm.   Or the family now living where Grandma had grown up not too far.  Or the neighbor injured when a bull decided she was too close to his space.  Or how Grandpa lent his carpenter skills when a roof needed to be replaced.   My youthful ears heard the names but didn’t yet fully hear; just how important these people, just how dear.   Connected because some had lived where my grandparents once had too. Or so I thought the main reason these names were such an integral part of what I knew.   Some neighbors were family by blood, relatives that happened to live “down the road”. Often bike rides or a walk to visit I would go.   If I reflect on conversations about others not related, is there a difference I find? The topics the same – the day to day happenings that make up a family lifetime. A celebration, a milestone, something sad or exciting; shared equally as if a cousin, Aunt, or Uncle – as if family.

Fast forward back to “today”, to a recent Fall open house a few “doors” away.   “Down” our road new neighbors hosting a welcome party; in person invitations “you are invited, the more the merrier, do come please”.  Abundant food for three days; a large shelter tent should it rain. Added touches such as dipping your own apples in caramel and then peanuts the finishing touch; or to carve a pumpkin if you were a youngster or a kid at heart. And of course a bonfire under the starry sky, with a plentiful marshmallow, graham cracker, and chocolate supply.

Sharing and laughter, familiarizing these new neighbors with the town they now call home; friendships forming with each story told. Names on mailboxes becoming more than letters on a holder at the end of a drive; these names are faces and voices and watchful eyes. Not in a negative way, but in a way that says “I have your back”; available to lend a hand if struggling, stuck or off track. In the exclamations of “stop by anytime” were the unspoken words “my door is always open to you”.  In the “thank you for the invitation” and the “have a good rest of your night” were the words “we would be hard-pressed for better neighbors to find”.   Not just a sentiment between new neighbors and those of us that have seen each other’s lights turn on and off for many a year; a collective feeling among us all as neighbors here.

We all get into auto-pilot mode when we drive the same direction day after day, and it isn’t until a change in scenery do we notice change. Even then we may take for granted the stability of what appears as a firm base; the houses, the sidewalks, the trees – all securely in place. Do we pause to notice that within the houses to our left and to our right are people who are, or can be, our lifelines? Do we appreciate that we have someone who knows our routine, and if altered do we know we have others who may worry? Do we make sure that we in turn watch for the familiar in what our neighbors do? That if we saw something amiss, we’d worry too?  And, do we have certain neighbors we don’t reach out to? Or are we all inclusive in fostering belonging no matter who?

Two people new to the neighborhood that have brought more than their love of gardening, Nature, and food; their open arms and heart are also a glue. Bringing people together, a stronger sense of community on the same street.   “Down the road” to the left and to the right; each of us a part of an important line of life.

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