Mark and I hosted a little block party here on Laurel Lane last Saturday evening. We live on a one-block dead-end street, so we went up and down the street a week earlier, handing out invitations to a "get acquainted" root beer social at our house. The day before the party, we went up and down the street again with little reminder notices, which we attached to their doorknobs with rubber bands.
Six different households, including ours, attended the root beer social. If you count David and Holly as their own household, then there were seven. It was a nice size to entertain, and everyone seemed to enjoy chatting. We learned what people do for a living, some of the neighborhood history from "old timers" on the street, a little about each others' families.
We had distributed 25 invitations, so I was a little nervous about having too big of a crowd. If everyone had come, we would have been bursting at the seams, and it would have been too chaotic. Still, I wished that a few more people had come. Why wouldn't people want to get better acquainted with their neighbors? Since it's a narrow dead-end street, we drive by one anothers' houses all the time, but we rarely get out of our cars to say hello. People are friendly about waving, but Mark and I had hoped to help establish a little deeper sense of neighborhood here.
Mike and Lauren live across the street and kitty-corner from us. They are a young couple. He is an engineer and she teaches chemistry at LaSalle High School in Portland. They were really friendly and seemed to enjoy visiting with everyone. A funny story - they told us that they got a little freaked out when we attached our reminder invitation to their doorknob on Friday. Their dogs started barking, and they heard their front doorknob jiggle, but when they looked outside, there was no one there. Mike had grown up in a tough neighborhood in SE Portland, so his instincts went on alert. Then they found our little reminder and said, "Oh, it's just the root beer party."
Nancy and Terry have lived around the corner for years. We know them well from church, and also because are sons were (and are) best friends. We enjoyed introducing them to more of the Laurel Lane neighbors. Nancy teaches piano lessons, so people knew their house from the "Piano Lessons" sign out front. They had also noticed the big roofing job that Terry and Nancy completed on their home last month.
Dolores and Luddy have been my next-door neighbors for the entire time (32 years!) that I have lived on Laurel Lane. Dolores actually lived in my house when she was a girl. Her father bought the 5-acre dairy and subdivided it. He built several of the houses on Laurel Lane. They were interested to see our remodeling project. We did it 6 years ago, and had told them about it, but they hadn't been over to the house to see what we had done in all that time. Luddy used to be kind of gruff, but he has softened over the years, especially as he's come through some difficult health problems (heart attack, heart surgery, falling off a ladder) in the last few years. They were tickled to get better acquainted with more neighbors.
Glad is one of the "new neighbors." She lives in one of the six houses that were built down at the end of the street about the time Mark and I were remodeling our house. Their part of Laurel Lane is actually an extension of the original street, but it's still a dead end. Glad is retired, and always smiling. She has a wonderful optimism about life. She volunteers with a gardening program that reaches out to kids in the juvenile detention system. Terry had heard that Glad plays the accordion, and he was encouraging her to bring it to a future party.
I'm kicking myself because I can't remember the name of Glad's daughter, who lives a few houses down from Glad in the last "old" house on the street. Her name begins with D, so I'll have to call her that for now. D is about my age, and like her mother, she is always smiling. When I took Luddy and Dolores upstairs for a tour of the remodeling project, she attached herself to the tour. I didn't get to visit with her much, and would like to visit with her again.
After everyone left, we talked about ways to encourage more neighborhood get-togethers in the future. Maybe we'll try a backyard picnic in the summer, or a dessert social some other time. Out of all the people we invited, only 2 made us a little nervous about inviting them in the future. One guy, down at the end of the street, just seemed really "rough around the edges." I don't want to be unfriendly, but I might not drop off an invitation next time around. Another man, in one of the new houses, yelled at us when we rang his doorbell with our first invitation. We had seen the sign above the door that said "no soliciting," but we weren't selling anything. He just yelled at us to go away; he never did answer the door. Too bad. He has beautiful flowers in his yard, and I had hoped to compliment him. Then there is the elderly lady living down the street. When we dropped off her invitation, a relative answered the door and said she would give the invitation to Mrs. R, but she is 98 and probably won't come.
Anyway, that's the report on our little block party. I sometimes wonder if, in our busy, wired, connected world, it's a little harder than it used to be to get to know our neighbors.