When I was small, I traded stickers with Shannon catty-corner across Grant street. Rolf (“Not Ralph, mind!”) was born in the corner house that never took down their blue holiday lights. Chris Bullenbocker shared the Grant/Grey corner and we dragged up sewer covers, peeled back milkweed, and buried his dead hamster in the yew. An Airedale lived two doors down and walked his 7th grade boy around the block every day. Janet, at the end of Grey, and I fooled around behind her couch. The middle school vice principal lived directly across Grant and one winter slipped on his steps and walked around on a broken ankle for weeks. Elizabeth and I made mudpies even though I wasn’t supposed to go past the big tree-cracked sidewalk to her house. Every Christmas, my mom sent us out with plates of holiday cookies for our friends. My deepest disappointment was that our immediate neighbors did not have a small someone with whom I could blink nighttime flashlight messages and talk on a can-string telephone.
We moved across the country when I was eleven and the most I knew about the new neighborhood was that a red-headed acquaintance named Tyson lived somewhere nearby. He wanted to be president. We’re friends on facebook and I wouldn’t rule him out just yet. Suddenly, we made a lot fewer cookies to hand around. Since then, I’ve always assumed that my first neighborhood was different. That I am different. That it was two-thirds magic.
Remarkably, it turns out that there’s a grown-up version. At the neighborhood coffee shop we discovered the reason our dog always has his head down the drain across from the farmhouse: “Oh, you’ll have seen Richard Parker, of course. He’s the 15 pound cat that adopted us last week. Used to live beneath the grate.” And Debra headed across the street again this year to put up Sydney’s Christmas tree, “I just can’t lift those tree sections anymore, dear.” Charlie is doing much better since his stroke two years ago and our new neighbors put a fire-pit in the backyard. Now we talk over the picket fence with the friendly folks on both sides. Our elderly neighbors behind us on the hill are concerned about the tree between our fences falling. It turns out that although their land comes right up to the back of our fence, that tree is mysteriously on our land (despite occupying the same stretch). Our cookie list this Christmas is longer than it ever has been in years past.
Which brings me to a question: we have always shared homemade cookies and candy with our friends and neighbors, leaving out chocolate for this one, adding more coconut for that one. It’s a small thing that doesn’t cost much. One of the neighbors we talk to most is elderly and has a daughter who is diabetic. I’m hesitant to send over cookies. Is there an inexpensive alternative? I considered some sort of ornament from RR but that seems like an assumption and RR has yet to demonstrate any interest in decorating or crafting anything. I’m also hesitant to add more ‘stuff’ to lives I don’t know well. Ask first if they’d like cookies? Other ways to spread the cheer (besides helping with the tree)?