The Cycle of the ‘Hood

I bustled out of the back door to haul the last load of groceries into the house. Down the road, my neighbor set out on a walk, hands holding tight to his walker, an aide gently supporting him from behind. My neighbor is well into his ’90s, and thankfully has the support to remain in his beloved home. I smiled, happy to see him getting some fresh air on this early spring day.

We’ve lived in this neighborhood for more than 30 years, and we are still the newbies. We were fresh-faced thirty-somethings when we found our dream home in this popular neighborhood, well known for its huge lots and country feel. We felt like we had won the jackpot when I happened to spot the “for sale” sign. We saw the house the same night and made an offer the next day. And we got it. We quickly moved in with our first-born, just one and a half years old. I remember her toddling out on the back deck toward a beech tree — a toddler as well. It’s now an adult, just like our kids.

We came from a tight-knit neighborhood with a bevy of small homes, just a few miles away. It had been time to seek more space and a bigger back yard. We wanted to get a dog, and if we were lucky, perhaps we would have another child. This neighborhood was different, with the houses spaced much farther apart. Trick-or-treating was a completely different activity in this neck of the woods! One had to go for the long haul on that important day of the year.

It took some time to grow relationships with our new neighbors. When my husband put out the garbage for the first time, with all the boxes and packing material, an older woman strolled up to him and without much introduction, pointed at the house and asked, “How much?” Rattled, my husband told her. “Too much, she concluded, and continued her walk.

But grow the relationships we did.

Our dear friends next door remain dear friends, after all these years. We enjoy gathering in our back yards and houses, depending on the time of the year. They even said yes when we had the audacity to ask if they minded if we planted a vegetable garden along our very long driveway, between our houses. We share the bounty, of course, along with a composter, similar interests and even shared birthdates.

Our neighbors right across the street, who are in their ’80s, keep a close eye on our 90-plus neighbor who lives next door to them. And two doors down, another 90-plus neighbor still mows his lawn each week, and our next-door neighbors keep a close eye on him. Before the pandemic, we had a 50s-themed party for all of our older neighbors, with fun cocktails and appetizers. We all had a wonderful time, as they laughingly reminded us that we still were the newbies.

A lovely couple who lived across the street moved away after a few years, wanting to be closer to grandchildren. A wonderful family moved in, and our youngest is the same age as their youngest. They were so darn cute, waiting for the bus, as they started kindergarten. They are newbies, too, as is the family behind us, with two great dogs and a son who is growing up at an exponential pace.

Life is funny that way.

We have had three dogs since we’ve lived here, and it is a neighborhood that loves dogs. We know so many neighbors up and down our street, thanks to daily dog walks. In some cases, we know the names of the dogs just a bit more than the names of the humans. We also keep an eye out for one another. Just a couple of days ago, I received a text from the neighbor behind us, warning of a coyote walking down the road and hoping that our dog wasn’t outside. Sure enough, it strolled right by our house before disappearing across the street.

All in all, it’s a warm, caring, comfortable bunch of people.

Yet the ‘hood is changing. Unsurprisingly, others have discovered this pearl of a neighborhood, and many of the small one-story ranches are being bought up and torn down. Bigger two-story houses are erupting on practically every corner. Many of the wooded areas between homes are disappearing, making room for larger lawns. One wonders what the wildlife think about all of that. Yet just this week, four deer visited our bird feeder and creatively enjoyed breakfast (see photo above). And a turkey took a gander around the yard, finally finding her way to our back deck to sit for a spell. The turkeys of our village even have a Facebook page!

The cycle of life. The cycle of life of a neighborhood — a group of people who come together unintentionally — connected by the mere fact that they decided to buy a house in a certain area. “Life is like a box of chocolates,” Forest Gump calmly observes in the amazing movie by the same name. “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

We didn’t know what we were gonna get when we moved here oh so many years ago. But we got a fine box of chocolates indeed. And if the trajectory continues as it has for 30-plus years, one day we will be the 90-plus folks, commenting on the newbies and ignoring our children’s concerns about mowing the lawn and working the garden. Hopefully, you’ll find us outside watching the sun set over our back yard, wine glasses in hand, enjoying the occasional visit from our furry friends.

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Betsy Hayhow Hemming is an author and leadership coach. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction. www.betsyhemming.com.

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Betsy Hayhow Hemming

Betsy Hayhow Hemming

Betsy Hayhow Hemming is an author and leadership coach. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction. www.betsyhemming.com.

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