top of page

100 Days of Gladness: Day 14

The Things I Will Miss About This Quirky Neighborhood

Photo by author

There was the mean old man

walking his pain-in-the-ass dog,

a nonspecific little terrier with a bad attitude

loaded in the chamber at all times.

The guy never spoke to me,

while his dog snarled and lunged at mine

'from across the street. He would just pull

his dog closer to him, sort of. This happened

every single morning of every single day.

When I didn’t see him for a couple weeks,

I would worry.

There was the blond 50-year-old woman who

rode her bike, spring, summer, fall,

through just our couple two or three streets,

never further, earphones on, half singing along,

standing up in the pedals, pumping up and down,

weaving left and right. Down the middle of the street.

I always wondered where her home was.

Never found out, but I knew she was ours.

She was our neighborhood bikersinger.

She belonged with us.

There was Bob, the underground mayor of our neighborhood.

He knew everybody,what they’d just recently been through, and

who got a new dog, and whose daughter wasn’t getting along

with her husband, and which house was going up for sale.

Never talked about his time in Vietnam.

Not a big fan of the woo woo world.

We were real to him close before he and his wife moved to Florida.

We met because we happened to be outside, cleaning our garage.

He was walking by with his dog, Buddy.

We’d seen him around, but never spoken.

We looked up and said Hi.

He said, “My son died yesterday.”

There was Tony the cat.

Coolest cat in the world.

Big and white, longhaired and chill.

Sometimes he got that Don Johnson Miami Vice look,

depending on where he’d been,

which was nobody’s business, we all knew that.

Tony roamed at will, and visited at his leisure.

He was the real mayor of the neighborhood.

He would drop in on Bob’s house, easing through the doggie door.

He’d stay till he felt like leaving.

Receive nourishment without a lot of fuss.

Tony perused passersby from his own porch,

serenely detached. My dog would eat him if he could.

He’d let him know whenever we met.

Never bothered Tony.

He’d watch us with all the self-containment of

a big time Mafia boss.

There was the enormous tree we lost during Sandy.

The tree that I still mourn when I walk by

the place where she once lived.

'That grief never goes away.

And of course, the raucous organism of teenagers

that got louder and more belligerent with each passing year.

They would show off how little they cared, trying on new obscenities,

pushing limits, seeing what worked, what failed, slowly becoming “adults,”

long before they would ever become adults.

And there were our neighbors to the left of us.

Their five-year-old son developed cancer, and we all prayed

in our own ways. Now, he’s taller than my tall wife, and

doing great. His mom did hair in Manhattan, and

his dad flew for JetBlue.

(I always felt a little bit like I lived

next door to a rock star because of it.)

There was our neighbor to the right, who

genuinely loved his hateful wife.

She spoke daggers about the people across the street

because they were brown. Called them ‘those people.’

She raised Persian cats, but we never saw them. Ever.

In fifteen years they never let anybody in their house.

Daughters finally called the guys with the huge truck,

and men in full-on HazMat suits had to enter

through the upstairs window to clear things out.

Later, they got a puppy but they never walked him.

She smoked herself to death.

And there was our beloved Kareena across the street.

Kareena, whom we’d known since the very dayshe was born — ten years ago?

Eleven? No. . . No!

It’s seventeen years ago!

She has been our side-daughterall those years.

She came to us at first with construction paper and crayons,

then with friendship bracelets, then with report cards and then gossip,

and mean girl stories, and then bigger trouble and then

with the inevitable shards of her broken heart.

We held it in our hands,

wishing for magic, opting instead for the hard lessons of love.

We watched her scrap for her self-esteem, push into her power.

We taught her to poke through assumptions. We taught her to parallel park.

Her mother’s Guyanese, and our friendship with them was carried on through food.

For twenty years, she brought chana and naan

through our front door. We answered with roast chicken and apple pie.

This went on until our lives were so tangled up,

we cared more than we wanted to

about what would happen

if such and so didn’t go their way.

Now we’re moving clear across the country, and this neighborhood pulls at my heart.

I feel tender for everyone here, good, bad and ugly. It’s my neighborhood.

Something I wished for so hard, as a little girl.

I grew up where the driveways were a half mile long,

and no one ever ‘just dropped by.’

I grew up where someone else cooked the meals,

and they were always perfect,

and you never saw the dishes being done.

I always wanted to find a place with neighbors right next door.

Where I knew everyone so well, I could mess up a recipe (by myself),

and go next door for some ginger or extra sugar to see if that would work,

and they would totally have it, and there would be sidewalks,

and I would know everyone’s pets’ names,

and we might have our little squabbles,

but we would know that, push come to shove,

we had each other’s backs.

Some people dream of fame and wild success.

All I ever wanted was this neighborhood.

This very neighborhood.

The one that I got.

The one that I’m about to leave.

But also, the one I’m extremely grateful to have experienced.

And I feel very, very blessed.


bottom of page