The day we found our house in Portland, before making an offer, we took a walk around the block to see how the neighborhood felt. We saw kids' stuff everywhere and a couple of people we asked told us how much they like living there. It felt right. We saw a baby swing hanging from a tree in someone's front yard.
Fast forward four years to one day this week. Ted is out of town. I'm in the middle of finals week with my classes. Abe is sick with a stomach virus.
Abe and I were sitting on our porch swing snuggling in the early evening, and all the neighbor girls came over like ministering angels, hovering around him, in his face, kissing his head and saying lots of 'poor babies.' He was snuggled into my chest while the girls doted on him.
Then all their parents came up the porch, offered to take out my recycling for me, go for sprite runs, generally be there if I need anything with Ted out of town. They gave me advice on when to call the doctor, when not to call the doctor. All of them looked at my droopy son with upturned inner eyebrows, concerned and concentrated faces, taking in that something truly was wrong. They walked home later with "call if you need anything"s.
Later that night, Abe started perking up but I needed to prepare something for class. Another neighbor, this one a block north, asked around among the neighbors on her block to get me the game Taboo to use in my classes the next day. Right before bedtime, she and her husband left the game on my front porch.
The next day, this same neighbor cooked zucchini bread with Abe while I figured grades on her laptop. She'd also helped me figure out an excel spreadsheet the day before. Then she played with Abe while I went to my school to record grades.
Last weekend, on Saturday night, as we drove back home from a movie-night with Ted's dad, the neighbors were out, and the kids all started yelling when they saw our car. We brought camping chairs down and sat with our drinks as the kids played. Someone brought out an ipod with speakers and started playing salsa music. The kids danced. Everyone was talking all at once. Someone kept refilling cups with the leftover drinks from the previous weekend's big birthday party. The night was still very warm as the streetlights came on. Eventually the ipod battery ran out. There was brief talk about how late it was and how we really should have gone home an hour ago, but then someone opened their front door, sending more music out to the street. The kids kept dancing. Everyone kept talking all at once. On a warm Saturday night, the spontaneous party continued.
I can't accurately describe how wonderful the feeling is to know that so many people in my neighborhood have got my back. That front yard baby swing was a good omen. I am so grateful that, in the middle of 'postmodern', isolated American culture, we managed to plant ourselves in a village.