Over the years I've discovered that a house - even a fantastic and beautifully designed one - loses all it's fantastic-ness if the neighborhood enveloping said house sucks. There's a reason they always say, location, location, location. And I guess that's why I've always loved my childhood home. The neighborhood certainly did not suck - in fact, it was wonderful. I loved the location (although not so much when I had to trudge through five feet of snow for more than twenty minutes just to get to the bus stop...), the park two minutes away and more than anything else, the neighbors. We moved into the neighborhood when I was five years old and my sister and I were given a beautiful room to share that had a view of the entrance of Rockford Park. It also had a view of the house across the road where my best friend lived. Being completely and utterly obsessed with Anne of Green Gables at the time, we had developed a method of communication that involved yanking our window blinds up and down and leaving them open at varied heights. (This is what we kids did back when there were no cell phones. Don't knock it, it worked just fine...)
They say that it takes a village to raise a child, and it was certainly true on Fisherville Road. Having long, thick, red hair that reached just above my tush until the age of twelve, I remember my mother sending me across the road some Friday afternoons with my soaking wet hair wrapped up turban-style in a towel. I'd sit on the floor in their family room while my best friend's mom would French braid it for me, and it would stay braided like that until the next time I washed it. Until my dad put the pool into our backyard when I was sixteen, we had no fence between us and the neighbors. Our parents were good friends and there were nine kids between our two families, all around the same age, so they had decided to benefit from a double-size backyard instead of dividing the two. Their backyard was slightly higher than ours, so the gentle slope was great for snow sledding and running through sprinklers. When my mom came outside and brought snacks, she brought nine, just like when their mom came out with Popsicles, there were nine as well. And if anyone stepped out of line, you got reprimanded - whether it was your mom doing the reprimanding or your friend's mom. Somewhere around fifth grade, my best friend from across the street moved to a different neighborhood in the city. I was devastated - who would move into that house that had been like a second home to me? Luckily, another nice family from our shul moved in and we had new, instant friends once again.
Saturday afternoons, especially during the summer, we'd head to the park across the road. Huge with several jungle gym configurations, a couple of tennis courts and tons and tons of grass, we'd haul the enormous and heavy metal garbage tins towards the swings, lay them on their sides, climb up on them while fitting the bottom of the swing snug on our bottoms and hurl ourselves into the air. We'd do this for hours while our little brothers would climb the "space shuttle" and then argue, cry and fight about who got to be the astronaut piloting it. And when Monday morning rolled around and we were unceremoniously woken up at the ungodly hour of 6:15 so we could get to school on time, we'd leave the house at around 7:10 and pick everyone up along the way (think Pied Piper...) so that by the time we reached the bus stop (twenty minutes later...) we were a good solid group of eight or nine kids. We'd sit in our plaid Eitz Chaim uniforms at the back of the 7C bus heading south towards school and we'd giggle and laugh until we reached our stop.
Ironically, almost all of my old neighbors are living here in Israel, and even more ironically, my old next door neighbor lives in my neighborhood, about three minutes away. So while we're not sharing a backyard anymore, our kids are growing up as neighbors. It's odd and weirdly wonderful to have that shared past with someone that you can - in turn - pass onto your kids. That doesn't happen often.
So when I wrote my first post about my home, I didn't really touch on the neighborhood. It didn't strike me until today that part of what made my childhood home a great one was the neighborhood. Today, living in my own home in Israel, I'm lucky in that respect as well. My neighborhood is an awesome one. My friends are like family and I feel I can turn to them for just about anything, be it a cup of sugar or a couple of eggs, some hot water on Shabbat morning when I forgot to plug in my urn, a ride to Modiin when I don't have a car, or their shoulder to lean on precisely at the moment when I needed it most. And when I walk into my house and see my kids playing on the floor with my neighbor's seriously-adorable one year old, I'm reminded of that great song that was the opening of the Mr. Rogers show:
It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,