Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Won't you be my neighbor?

I am disproportionately excited about our potential new neighbors. Not even them, per se, but about the prospect of having neighbors with a child (even better, a girl) Ada's age.

A house on our block went up for sale recently, and as a testament to the continued strength of the market (and not to the beauty of the house, which is in less than fantastic shape and bears the marks of its former resident's, um, taste), it garnered five bids. When I heard that my heart sank, because I knew that a couple with a toddler was interested in it, and I could not imagine that they'd get it. The people selling the house would surely take the highest bidder's offer, and around here that is bound to be from a contractor who intends to patch the place up before selling it for tens of thousands more. But on Thursday the family arrived for the inspection, and my heart leapt. Chris and I wandered down the street to say hi, to see if it could really be a family with kids.

It is not as if we are alone on this block, stranded amid childless types. We love the people on the corner, who have two, and Ada stalks with our six year old neighbor up the street. We are friendly with the people around the corner (who come with the multiple excitements of a child, a dog and two chickens) and know others in the neighborhood with kids. But somehow the idea of a friend, dare I say a potential best friend once they get old enough to care about such things, it made me thrill at the prospect.

(Before we go any further, this is where I need to say: Ellen, I have no intention of tossing Monkey Boy aside as best friend material. Ada will always love your Boy, but it couldn't hurt a girl to have a close girl pal on the block. You know, as back up, for when M.B. goes through his "girls are icky" phase. )

Growing up I had a best friend, one who lived a mere three blocks away. We were a Mutt & Jeff duo, minus the mustaches and hats. I was always the giant kid, while Rachel was tiny. I remember her parents, who worried about her size and low weight, practically force-feeding her the kind of treats I only dreamed about getting at home. Although we were both from Jewish families, our backgrounds were very different. Rachel's parents were European immigrants, her father the only person from his village to not die at the hands of the nazis. My parents were East Coast-bred Americans. Her dad owned a restaurant and her mom stayed home. My parents worked in offices. She was an only child, with a tv, stereo and Barbie dream house in her room! I had to share everything with my sister.

It wasn't until later that I realized that Rachel idealized my family as much as I did hers. While I loved the quiet and luxury of her house, she loved that my mom would play with us, make cookies or help us with projects. Her parents were more hands off. I thought they were great, sophisticated and interesting. (Plus, they had a sign by their pool: "We don't swim in your toilet, don't pee in our pool" and how funny was that?)

Even though Rachel and I only went to school together for a few years, we saw each other a lot. We played together after school and every weekend. I went with her family on weekend trips to Palm Springs, we slept over at one another's houses, made matching Halloween costumes, choreographed elaborate dance routines to the Grease! soundtrack, and dressed my sister up in wild outfits from my costume box. We walked to and from junior high together planning our futures. We could not imagine our lives without one another, laughed at the idea that we'd ever be apart.

By high school we had come apart. Not from some great teen schism, some slight or misunderstanding, but because I'd taken one track and Rachel another. Though Rachel was smart, she was not the geek that I was and had somehow not jumped on the honors track with me. It seems weird in retrospect that she'd stuck with me through my really awkward years, the buck teeth and coke-bottle glasses of my early teens, only to peel away when I came more into my own in high school. I don't blame her, becoming a teen is a difficult thing for the most self-possessed child. I am sure I didn't help matters, and I can't even remember how it happened that we drifted apart.

After Rachel I didn't have any really close female friends again until college. But regardless of the fact that she is not still my best friend, Rachel's friendship helped shape me. Whether or not any of the plans and dreams Ada makes with her friends come true, whether or not they actually move into apartments together and share wardrobes and always choose one another over their romantic prospects, the space to make those plans is what I want for her. I want her to have someone to snuggle with in sleeping bags, whispering late into the night and giggling in exhaustion. I want Ada and her friend to learn to roller skate together, to run down grassy hills and gather rose petals for some secret project. I want them to dream and make up stories and explore together. I want her to have the kind of friend-love that buoys a childhood. I want her to have what I had.


  1. this really makes me think about the inevitability of P growing up and waiting to whisper secrets with someone other than me. it makes me so sad.

  2. nice sentiment. i have such great memories of my childhood best friend. the closest thing i have now is the icky boy i live with (not my son). may all of our children have great best friends throughout childhood and beyond!

  3. that is so beautiful.


  4. You know, I always thought that proximity didn't matter when it came to friendships, that a close friend would remain so, even if she lived far away.

    But in truth, my friend who lives close by is closest to my heart, and friends who are in different cities are more distant than they should be.

    Here's hoping Ada gets a new BFF in the neighborhood.

  5. I was trying to write it out all last week. I am so impatient that my daughter bask in the warmth of friendship. I swear I have been waiting for more than a year patiently.

    So many ways I have been a 'good mother' respectful of the republic of childhood and what is different about their lives. But on this point I am not doing so well. To me friendship seems so dear and precious that I cannot at all imagine a time before. To my detriment I tilt at the windmill that much about being and having friends is learned. It seems to tawdry for something otherwise rich and rare.

    you capture the richness here. thanks

  6. that's a beautiful post. i hope it happens for ada. and for you.