We also befriended Dan and Lydie who moved into the house after it was rebuilt. But we didn't see each other that much. Dan and Lydie worked long hours and commuted by train to Los Angeles. Bob and I had horrible commutes and long work hours, too. Like all the others, we would pull into our garage at night, closing the door after us.
Sometimes it can be life-saving.
My friend Kim recently told me that a neighbor of hers who is an insulin-dependent diabetic had a foot wound that he had been ignoring -- until several neighbors, including Kim, nagged him repeatedly to go see his doctor. And his doctor said he had sought treatment just in time to prevent more serious complications.
It is often life-enhancing.
As neighbors, we share special moments and sad times. We have a chance to experience and to see acts of kindness and times of courage.
The other day, my next door neighbor Louise baked a cake and hosted a birthday party for our neighbor Padma -- despite the fact that Louise had a houseful of kids and grandkids visiting from Seattle and that she was also suffering from a kidney stone. She smiled through the party -- with 23 invited guests -- and very few realized her personal agony (from the kidney stone not from visiting family!)
And neighbors grieved this week when Phyllis' sweet and beautiful 12-year-old canary Nelson died. News travels fast: I was driving down the main boulevard this morning in our golf cart when I spotted Marsha walking her dog. Marsha, who lives about a block away from Phyllis, flagged me down to ask anxiously about Phyllis' latest heath crisis and also to double-check the news about Nelson. "I heard that Nelson has passed away," she said. "Is that true? Oh, no. Of all her pets, Nelson was my favorite. He was such a sweet little bird who sang so beautifully."
And everyone has been concerned this week about Phyllis herself, in the hospital for the fourth time in as many months, this time for emergency surgery. We're all hoping and praying that this surgery, at last, will help her to regain her health and vitality.
And I wonder: is our new-found closeness with our neighbors the result of all of us having more time now that most of us are retired?
Is it because we all come from different places and are willing and eager to create a new circle of friends in this new community?
Is it because we have new priorities now that the demands of our jobs and commutes are gone, the kids raised and we can focus on connecting with neighbors, on building new dreams and re-discovering old pleasures?
Maybe it's all of the above.
Walking down the street, as I pass each house, I think of the people who live there and marvel. I know their names. I know -- to varying degrees -- who they are. I enjoy every one of them and feel comfort in their warm friendship.
In some ways, it feels like a trip back to my childhood, visiting my grandparents' small Kansas town and back home in suburban Los Angeles, in the exuberant years after the end of World War II in a neighborhood filled with my childhood friends and their parents who befriended my parents. We were all extended family, sharing life's ups and downs, together.
All these years later, it's truly wonderful to have re-discovered a real community of new friends who feel so very much like family.
I love the fact that we look out for each other.