Thursday, December 4, 2014

Won't you be my neighbor

My family moved to Charlotte in 1989, to a neighborhood in south Charlotte called Summerlake.  This was an Allen Tate community that was in the process of being built, I think we were the 10th house of 200; imagine a lot of red clay! My dad’s job is what brought us down, so my family knew about 20 other families who also moved down here from NH but we were all spread out all over the city and to say we knew all of them was a stretch, my dad worked with a member of their family but it wasn’t like we had a bunch of friends. Our neighborhood grew quickly and it was a lot of families similar to ours, parents in their early to mid-30’s with kids, we (the kids) had lot of friends in the neighborhood and were outside all the time playing, riding bikes, running around, trying to raise money to buy a trampoline, walking door to door trying to sell wrapping paper, girl scout cookies, popcorn, fruit, whatever the school had going on at that time---normal kid stuff.

As an adult I think how lonely this must have been for my mom. She did not work, she had 4 kids (2 school age and 2 pre-school age) in a city she had never been to, 12 hours away from any family and had no friends. She was able to make a lot of friends in the neighborhood and still lunches with a lot of these ladies monthly and a few who have moved away (other parts of Charlotte or out of state) she still sees when they come visit. A few of these couples even came to my wedding and my parents have gone to their kids weddings also. We joined a neighborhood pool (not our neighborhood) and my mom played on their tennis team, volunteered with the swim team, she worked at our schools, and spent the rest of her “free time” carting us all over town to different sports and activities.

Summerlake was a great place to grow up- everyone knew everyone, all the kids played together, went to school together, and played sports together. We had a neighborhood directory that had name, address, phone #, family members and a list in the back of anyone who did stuff like: babysit, dog sit, water plants, collect mail and mow lawns, so if you needed any of those things you had a list of people to call. I used to babysit all the time and still get a kick out of it when someone I used to sit for friends me on FB or I run into them out somewhere (ah I am so old!) Annually we had a Halloween party/parade and other neighborhood parties, there was a supper club and at some point I think the woman started Bunco.

Mark and I moved in March 2012 to a neighborhood that was in the process of being built. Building began in 2006 and when we moved in it was 60% complete, today there are only 2 houses left and they will probably be done by March 2015. I only have one friend in the neighborhood and only because I knew her before moving in….I am constantly asking myself why is this? We are outside a lot, we play, we walk, we sit, we wave, I try to strike up conversations with neighbors but most of the time it is just in passing and no one really seems to be interested in making friends.

Last week when we were going out of town I didn’t have anyone to ask to check our mail and porch for packages (my one neighbor friend was out of town), I went online and asked the USPS to hold it, received a confirmation email and returned home on Sunday to 3 days’ worth of mail and 2 packages on my front porch…thanks USPS!

Mark and I are having our first nonfamily babysitter in a few weeks and she is 16 and doesn’t have a car, I wanted to make sure I had a neighbor’s phone # to give her in case of emergency so that someone would be close, I asked my one neighbor friend and luckily she doesn’t have plans that night.

I want Sawyer to grow up in a neighborhood like Summerlake, I want him to be able to walk to his friend’s houses, ride the bus to school with his friends, walk home with them after school, run around the neighborhood causing trouble and know that “Suzie” up the street will tell me about it and have no issue keeping him in line when needed, borrow a cup of sugar, be able to give someone a spare key in case I get locked out, have someone to pick up our mail or be the in case of emergency for a babysitter, etc. I want to cookout with neighbors, sit in our driveways and have a few beers while our kids are sleeping upstairs, play Bunco, have supper club, etc.

I am starting to think that these neighborhoods don’t exist anymore. Is it because nowadays both parents work and don’t have time? There are fewer transplants so the people in my neighborhood already have a ton of friends and don’t want anymore? Is it scarier “out there” and no one wants their kids running around? Are people are less social and want to keep friends and neighbors separate? Is it me?

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