My across-the-street neighbor was outside yesterday doing yard work while my children arrived home from school. She smiled and waved; I waved back. We are good neighbors who watch out for each other, but do not get into each other’s business. It works.
Since my family moved to the neighborhood almost eight years ago, she and I have witnessed from a close distance the activities and transitions of each other’s family life. It feels like yesterday her children were starting high school and I had only one toddler. Now I have three kids in elementary school and hers have graduated or are about to graduate college. For years their driveway was full of cars; there were prom picture sessions on the front lawn, track teams over for spaghetti dinners, noisy packs of teenagers filling the street. Now it is so quiet. She has watched us run after our babies and our dog, and break our backs on DIY landscaping. We know so much about each other and yet we know nothing.
Later in the evening, I was out getting the mail and she sort of shouted to me from her yard, “You know, those kids are going to have such a nice memory of you standing out there on the front walk waiting to greet them after school,” nodding her head matter-of-factly. I was a little taken aback and asked if she was reminiscing. “Yep, but I didn’t wait outside,” she said, her voice cracking. “That’s just going to be really special. You don’t know until later.”
As I walked back toward the house, a little lump in my throat, I noticed the warmth of the lamps in the windows and anticipated the boisterous sounds and yummy dinner smells that awaited me inside. And I thought that what my neighbor had said was maybe the highest compliment I could think of for a mother of young children. When I stop to think about it, nothing much matters other than surrounding them with love and creating an environment of warmth and stability; my highest goal is to be their safe place and for our home to be their haven. And it’s the little things that make it so.