I live on a street with only 29 houses. I’ve lived here for 22 years. That is not a long time for my street. I lived in one house for five years, and then moved across the street to our current house 17 years ago.
My 85-year-old neighbor moved to our street when she was 12, got engaged in a different neighbor’s garage, raised her three kids in another house on the street and has never left. She and her 88-year-old husband have been married for more than 55 years and run circles around most of us. Many of us have lived in more than one house on this tree-lined street near Delaware Park.
The word neighborhood is an important word that conjures up all sorts of images and feelings. There is also the word community, but neighborhood feels more intimate. Community makes me feel strong, and neighborhood makes me feel safe. If Webster’s needed a photo to help define “neighborhood,” I’m sure ours would fit nicely. In the City of Good Neighbors, our street could be described as a microcosm.
Recently, our neighborhood suffered a terrible loss. The untimely death of Natalie Lewis – our beautiful, blond-haired baby sitter, sometime street hockey player, dog walker and Halloween party participant – in a hot air balloon accident has shaken every one of us. We are collectively hurting for our wonderful neighbors, the Lewises. Natalie’s father is one of our neighbors who was raised on the street. He thought enough of the idea that when it came time for his parents to sell their house, he moved his family back to the street to give them the same experience he had as a child.
Growing up on our street is any child’s dream. In a world that is filled with screens and electronics, our street is still filled with never-ending street hockey and basketball games, sidewalk chalk creations, squirt gun fights, lemonade stands and annual Halloween parties.
Several years ago, I had a succession of difficult years, including the loss of my wonderful husband after a valiant fight against cancer. When our social worker came to our house to meet with the kids and me, it was a typical spring day on our street. The kids were running everywhere while adults kept a watchful eye, catching up with the neighbors. She rang our doorbell and said, “You don’t need me, you have this” as she gestured to the street scene.
I was lucky enough to get remarried. When my new husband asked me where I wanted to live, I gave him a quizzical look and responded, “right here.” Moving off of our street would have been a deal breaker for my kids and me. During our first couple of snowstorms, my husband snow blew the entire side of our street. Instantly, there was love affair.
I am certain that had Natalie Lewis lived, she would have told her fiancé she would like to raise their family on a street just like the one she grew up on.
My children are lucky enough to have loads of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. But they also know in any crisis large or small they can call Pat, Barber, Lisa, Mark, Pam and the list goes on and on for 29 houses.
I know in the City of Good Neighbors we are not the only neighborhood like this. However, I am so proud to call our street home and to have had my neighbors in the 29 houses here for each other during this unusual time.