Every morning C sits in her highchair with her back to the window. Either M or I sit across from her feeding her breakfast.
Every morning our elderly neighbor pulls his car out of the driveway, drives around the block, and pulls the car in front of his house. A half hour later his middle age daughter gets into her car and backs it out of the garage. Later on her mother comes out to work on her garden. This well rehearsed dance takes place every week-day morning, and every morning we see it as we sit with C.
For years we watched them silently, trying to piece together their lives, wondering whether she had come home to live with them, or if they had moved in with her. It became almost a game, but at the same time, we worried if one of them wasn’t at our daily rendezvous.
In the space of three years we exchanged words maybe two or three times; when our eyes met across the street, when we came home with C for the first time. They knew that M was a law student and we knew nothing about them except what we observed.
All of that changed the day they were robbed. A man broke into their home during the night and went through the garage and the house while the three of them slept. The daughter woke up when she heard noise, thinking her father was having trouble sleeping. She found the man standing in her room. She grabbed a cricket bat that was lying around and went to town on him. He ran away and only after he left did she realize he was carrying a knife.
I found all of this out because the next day she called to me from across the street as I was unloading C from the car. She told me everything and I listened in shock. It could have been my house, my family. The robber was never caught, their belongings never recovered, and now they never go to sleep without leaving floodlights on all around the house. I’m now extra careful to lock the doors and windows before going to sleep. M sleeps with his cell phone on his night stand. It wasn’t our house, but our safety feels just as compromised.
There is an unexpected silver lining to this cloud. We now know our neighbors. We know their names, we know what they do, we know a little bit about who they are. They notice when we are away and we notice when they are gone. Every so often we take a minute to cross the street and have a chat.
Today the mother called to me from across the street and C and I went over to say hi. Her daughter had mentioned that I’d been a little nauseous last time we had chatted and she had bought me some Preggie Pops. I can’t even put into words how much that kind gesture touched me.
The kindness of neighbors, it’s what make a neighborhood feel like home.