Several years ago, a woman I worked for at Microsoft gave me a Christmas gift of a set of four stone coasters that have pretty pictures of birds, greenery, and a little nest filled with three perfect little eggs. She explained that she imagined that I lived in a warm, welcoming house and that we often threw parties filled with interesting people.
She was right about at least one thing: We have many interesting friends.
In the summers we like to sit on the front stairs with Marty and Leah watching the neighborhood stream home. Some Fridays Pavel comes over for a glass of wine or Bill swings by while out walking his dog. Coco sits patiently and loyally—as dogs are supposed to—on the front porch while Bill visits with us in the kitchen.
My mother is always welcome but she doesn’t come over as often as we would like. I think she might find the 28 stairs up to our house daunting and she has her own warm home to tend. My brothers come blustering through every so often and are always a fun (and loud) presence at holidays. My aunts show up for the major events and are charming and good company. Regina entertains everyone and Debra looks for ways to be helpful—she has been known to scrub the kitchen sink if she thinks it needs it.
My cousin, Ross, and his girlfriend, Brittany, are a sure bet for most parties and they often bring along Arnaldo who is their friend but also a good friend and former neighbor of ours. (When Arnaldo lived next door I could count on him to bring a steaming cup of fresh ginger tea if I was fighting off a cold and sometimes I would knock on our kitchen window, which overlooked his bedroom, and use hand gestures to indicate that I had leftovers to offer him for dinner.)
We have lived on our dead end for 18 years this fall. For the first few years, we hardly knew our neighbors. Then Lisa moved in across the street and decided to build a community. She and her partner, Betsy, organize terrific community-building events such as clearing fallen leaves from the storm drains in the fall, cleaning weeds and garbage from the overgrown hillside at the end of the block, and “dead ender” barbecues or progressive wine and appetizer parties once a year or so. We’ve also thrown together a few dead ender yard sales over the years, which always start with a great swapping of things between households and end with Greg hauling everything that’s left over to the big Goodwill.
I love where we live and the people we live among. It’s wonderful to know that if Arlo is going to be dropped off from soccer practice to an empty house in the evening, I can ask Beth and Susan across the street if they will have her for dinner. I love when Lynn drops by to talk about books or to ask Greg (the “block husband”) if he can crawl in her bathroom window because she’s locked herself out of the house and the sautéing garlic is burning on the stovetop. I love that both Lisa and Beth brought Willa to their workplaces on sequential “take your daughter to work” days and that Kristeen—who we include among the dead enders although she lives one block to the east of us—went to school with Willa on “Honored Elder Day” in 8th grade.
Living here, among these people, is a blessing I like to count.
Offering: A set of four stone coasters.