Neighbors are special people wherever they are
Monday, January 13, 2014 3:49 AM
Recently I was writing in this diary page about being without electricity for five days. Like so many things in my past (at this age, we have a long history!), it started me thinking about something else. It occurred to me that wherever I have lived, I have had absolutely wonderful neighbors, including, but not limited to, the ones with whom we cooked hot dogs and beans in the fireplace during the electricity outage.
After departing our hometown, my former spouse and I lived at his first duty station with the Navy in Oklahoma. We had found an apartment in a charming old church that had been converted to living quarters. Our neighbors - Cliff and Kathy - were another Navy couple. While the husband far out-ranked my spouse, we nonetheless became great off-base friends. Cathy taught me the ropes about how to stretch money.
Because the closest military commissary, or on-base shopping, was at Tinker Air Force Base, it was a major outing to go there. In the interim, she taught me to clip coupons. We would do one run to the local grocery stores and get as much as we could with coupons and on deep-discounted sales. Then we would make a once- or twice-monthly run to Tinker.
Our next home was in Lakewood, N.J. Because my former spouse was a trainee and it was temporary duty, there was no base housing available. So our neighbors there were a very old Jewish couple, the Laskys, who lived on the first floor of a beautiful old house. They rented the second floor to us.
We were living on almost nothing. We were not poor, but we were broke. We did not have enough money to take our clothes to a Laundromat, so I washed them in the kitchen sink. We hung them out to dry on a line that operated from the second-floor kitchen window and stretched from pulley to pulley, over the driveway to a tree about thirty feet away. On the days when it was dreary and damp outside, we turned on the oven, opened the oven door and dried them on chairs as near as we could to the heat.
My former spouse's Navy buddies - all single - bunched up on their "chow passes" in order to give my spouse one so he could eat on base for the noon meal. That old Jewish man would make an occasional trek to the third floor attic, through our kitchen, to check on something. Years later I realized that was a made-up excuse. He was checking to see if we had anything at all in the apartment to eat. When we did not, he and his wife would invite me downstairs for a wonderful home-cooked meal. I soon found a job working in a Jewish deli. My employer there also understood the situation and sent food home with me for our evening meal.
When we lived in Florida and our baby son died suddenly, it was the neighbors, the Quicks, who were there immediately to help out. They were like our absentee parents and saw us through that trauma, including getting us and the baby's body back to Minnesota for the funeral and burial.
Back in Minnesota, living in married student housing at the University of Minnesota, it seemed it was just assumed that we were all one big happy family. We all had so much in common. We were all broke because back then parents did not unendingly pay for offspring to go to school. I should add it was not because parents could not afford it, because some of them could. It was because it was then considered a better character-building experience to pay our own way. After all, since they had made it on their own, so could we. Student loans were almost non-existent.
We all had the same schedule. The student-member of the family had classes and usually part-time jobs for a set number of weeks and then a short break. The working-member of the family adjusted to fit that schedule. We all worked like fiends for the same weeks and compressed our social life into the quarter breaks. Like many other neighbors from many different locales over the years, these became lifelong friends.
I have had a lot of neighbors since then, all of whom have been wonderful friends. There were the people next door in Chicago, one of whom had emphysema and could usually be heard coughing loudly in the middle of a sultry humid summer evening in the windy city. That never deterred from their kindness nor our appreciation of them as wonderful people.
There was my neighbor in St. Paul who could always be counted on to go along on any fun outing I could suggest. On the other side of my house was the woman who got me to the hospital in fast time when I had multiple breaks in my ankle. Many of my neighbors there were visiting professors who have also become lifelong friends.
I have written many times about my neighbors in Lincoln, Neb., and not just some neighbors, but all of them on all sides! That is one advantage of city living, having neighbors in front, back and both sides.
And now we have wonderful neighbors again. I cannot imagine anything else.