Not quite Mayberry, but close

When I was a kid, my neighborhood was a place of unrestricted roaming. If you were bored in your own backyard there was always someone else’s yard for a game of kick the can or playing with a different dog, an alternate kitchen where the cookies were as good as mom’s.

You could always count on the neighbors to buy whatever you were selling for scouts or school, and women really did pop next door to borrow a cup of sugar while the men traded ladders and small power tools, most of the time returning them to the proper garage.

Some of the same people live in the old neighborhood, but time marches on. The woman next to my parents has put her name on a list to go into assisted living since her husband died, which has my Mom’s spirits as trampled as the path that goes between their back doors.

I’ve lived in my same neighborhood for a little more than 20 years, once putting the house on the market because I thought it was too small. This was something potential buyers also had a problem with, so I stayed and built an addition. It’s a nice neighborhood with many staying put. I’m seeing the little kids I first knew with kids of their own.

We do things for one another, whether it’s seeing who’s first to shovel the sidewalk after a snow, or moving a FedEx package from the front porch to the back if the person’s not home. Then there was the summer my refrigerator gave up the ghost and I had a freezer full of food that was going to go bad fast. I called the woman on the corner and she quickly said to bring it on over and she would make room in her own freezer.

The man next door is my cat sitter when I go out of town, which also means he’s my litter box scooper — talk about a good neighbor. He even runs the mower through my backyard when he’s doing his own lawn.

Last spring our street was saddened by the death of a longtime resident, a man who initially aggravated me with hillbilly music blasting in his backyard. It didn’t take long, though, to connect with him over gardening (he always left tomatoes and squash on my doorstep) and to back away from talking politics, especially if he had been sitting in his lawn chair long enough to down a few beers.

My brother, who lives in Oregon, is excited that he’s finally getting the neighborhood we knew growing up, even if it took a few burglaries to make it happen. Residents there had been plagued with things missing from their homes and my brother organized a neighborhood watch. Now, they’re talking over their fences and thinking about throwing a block party.

During my time in the ‘hood there have been the occasional bad neighbor — the waitresses who came home from work at 2 a.m. and routinely brought half the bar with them comes first to mind — but I was that young once and tried not to make a big deal of it. Replacing them were renters who staged clanking horseshoe tournaments and installed makeshift floodlights for night games, but they, too, have moved on and I’m thinking that somewhere someone is not as delighted about their neighborhood as I am.

— Nancy Luse is a freelance writer living in Frederick, Md.

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