Neighbors and Muffins
I believe in bringing blueberry muffins to neighbors.
I didn’t always. Until fourteen years ago, I only thought of my neighbors if their dog pooped on my lawn or if they left their Christmas lights up past March. They were the people I waived to when I picked up my mail. Or not. They were the fringe around the edge of my house.
But then, my husband and I moved into a new house in the suburbs. We had just had our first child, and I had left work to stay home with her. It was November. Our house was at the bottom of an unfinished cul-de-sac. The concrete sidewalk stopped abruptly at the corner, leaving us stranded amid piles of mud and rock and lot numbers. My husband worked late. The days with my beautiful baby girl were long. And I knew no one.
One rainy evening, a soaking wet woman appeared at my front door with a dripping little boy tucked under her raincoat. Both of their boots were caked with mud. The woman pushed a damp white box tied with string into my hands and introduced herself. It was Jeanne. She and her son, Tommy, had trudged down from their house at the top of the block, past where the sidewalk ended, through the thick mud on a soggy November night to meet their new neighbor.
In the spring, when the sidewalks were finished, Jeanne and I visited one another sometimes, standing beside our mailboxes or stopping in for coffee. We met one another’s families and, as houses gradually lined the streets, other families. As a fledgling little neighborhood, we shared backyards and beer. There were playgroups and Friday margaritas at the bottom of the driveways. Eventually, after that first flush of enthusiasm wore off, some of us got on one another’s nerves. Fences and tree lines sprung up. But our children still played together and quarreled and made up. We still met on the sidewalk or in the supermarket, exchanged plumber recommendations, school gossip and garden tools. Our husbands helped one another move desks, plant trees and shovel driveways. Over time, some of us drifted apart. Some of us stayed close. Some of us moved on.
It seems like a small thing, bringing new neighbors pies or muffins or whatever. But every time a ‘sold’ sign goes up in my neighborhood, I think of Jeanne. And, sooner or later, I find myself standing at a stranger’s door, usually holding a plate of blueberry muffins. Sometimes people look at me strangely, as if I must be there for a reason, as if just introducing myself isn’t enough. But I don’t care. Thanks to Jeanne, I know what it is to have someone throw me a line and pull me into a neighborhood. I believe that it is exactly these little threads that tether us to one another, that bind us to our hometowns and neighborhoods and ultimately – hopefully – weave the fabric of community.