Saturday, September 4, 2010

Right Neighborly

I lived in Overland for ten years, and during that time, was invited into my next door neighbor's house exactly once about four years ago, and only as far as the front room.  If they hadn't had a brand new baby to show me, I'd probably have been relegated to the front porch any time I went over there.  To Joel's credit, he was a good neighbor in other ways, letting me borrow an odd sized screwdriver or giving me a couple of drywall screws, and once mowing my yard without being asked when our mower died.

That's not the way things are done here in Louisburg.  My first week here, I went in search of the house that had vegetables for sale. The woman of the house, Sue, invited me in and we went all the way back to the kitchen.  I paid her for a dozen eggs, but sensed that I shouldn't rush off after our transaction was completed.  (The "here, have a seat" at the kitchen table tipped me off.)   We probably spent an hour there together, and then she took me out to meet her chickens.  The vegetable garden was wilted and pathetic in the afternoon heat, but there were a few red tomatoes on the vines, and Sue gave them to me.  I think of it as a housewarming gift.

We've been here almost a month now, and this has happened over and over.  If you are on their doorstep, you are fair game, and you will 'set a spell'.  I know more about my neighbors here than I learned about my neighbors in Overland in the decade I was there.

Last night, Billy and Mary, our neighbors across the street, had us over for hamburgers and pool.  Their two little girls climbed all over us, and showed us the household treasures:  a toad, three tiny kittens, three bigger kittens, and books to read.  They are charming kids and I find it amusing that the littlest one comes over to "play" with my girls, nineteen and twenty years old.  Tonight is Pizza Night at their house, so we'll pick out some music and maybe a movie and spend another evening amidst the happy chaos of kids, dogs and kittens.  There will also be pool games and much conversation.

This past week, I have been caught up in getting my stepvan road-worthy and registered.  I spent hours--many hours--at the mechanic's house.  As it happens, the parts store in Buffalo does not take credit cards over the phone, and since I had no transportation to Buffalo, (seven miles from my house), I had to stay in Thomasville, at the mechanic's place, so that Jeanne, his wife, could drive me to town whenever Gary said he needed another part.  Did you catch that?  I hung around, watching Jeanne can gallons of tomatoes and drinking her excellent sweet tea, and chatting with everyone else who dropped by, and every so often, Jeanne put me in her truck, and drove me to Buffalo so I could pay for parts.  She even bought me lunch once.  (Shameless plug:  If you need help north of Springfield, Missouri, go see Gary at Pee-On Auto Repair.  You read that right, that's their grandson's nickname from when he was a baby.)

There is a sense of community out here in the country.  We are all in this together, and our survival depends on the help of others.  The interdependence we have with one another is just what is called 'right neighborly.'