Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Old Neighborhood

For someone who grew up moving back and forth between continents (in my 12 years of basic education, I attended 7 schools in different locations)--I have stayed put in the same area for more than 4 decades.

My husband and I moved to the south central Pennsylvania, when he was finished with college and beginning his first job. Initially, we lived in an apartment, like many newly-weds. But after several years, we decided it was time to buy a house. Our son was just one year old when we began house hunting. We were decidedly not wealthy--my husband was teaching public school, and I was teaching college part time. Then, as now, part time college teaching pays woefully little. And public school teachers had only just won the right to bargain and strike if need be to raise salaries. So, we did not have loads of disposable income. We are also very sensible people, and made sure we looked at houses we could afford. The concept of buying so far over one's income level as to be "underwater" had not even been invented.

We were shown some very sorry houses--one tiny house with grey stone exterior had well water and a septic tank, not unusual. BUT this house was in a suburban neighborhood where all the houses around it were on city water and sewer. Another house, at that time 25 years old, had its original furnace. My husband envisioned a wheezing failing furnace and us with our restricted finances.

Finally, we found the right house--a one-story ranch house in an integrated neighborhood that was about 15 years old. The owners of the house that we were looking at were a former priest and a former nun who had found the strictures imposed on them by the Catholic Church to be untenable--so they left their vows and got married. They had been active in the anti-war movement during the Vietnam era, and had entertained some of the luminaries who came to town when the
Harrisburg Seven were being tried. One of the people whom they housed over-night was Father Philip Berrigan--one of the seven-- and they had entertained his brother Father Daniel Berrigan.

On a side note, a dear friend of ours--who gave her son the middle name of Berrigan--when she visited our old house walked out on our lawn, and said--Daniel Berrigan walked here. Anyway, that's not why we bought the house. But it was an interesting back story to that place.

We lived there for about seven years. We weren't really looking for a new place, but one day--when our son was 8, we were out bike riding, and came upon this tiny new development very near our old house. We saw a house with a for sale sign in front. We got off our bikes, peered in through the windows--and thus was born an idea. Why not move?

Well, we did. When we left the old neighborhood, it was with a touch of sadness--leave takings are always thus. But it was a house we were leaving. Not really a neighborhood. Oh, true, we had neighbors--we knew their names, we said hi and such. But we never really got to know anyone. Almost all the yards were fenced in--a kind of metaphor for the lack of contact between neighbors. The only people we ever had inside our house were one couple (whose husband was also a public school teacher), and one little neighbor boy who wandered into our kitchen one day. I turned around--and there he was. I asked if his parents knew he was out--and he said, no. Strange. I just walked him home--not surprisingly, his parents were as blasé about his being out and about as he was.

The new neighborhood to which we moved--well, we have lived here for more than 30 years. And we know just about everyone in our neighborhood. Given our preference, we'd just as soon not move again!


Jayne said...

I'm not a big "mover" either my friend. This is the third place we've lived since we got married and I plan on staying here. :c)

Anvilcloud said...

I am trying to decide whether there is an implied "but" at the end.

KGMom said...

Jayne--I understand. The bits I've seen of your home (as shown in pics on your blog) it looks lovely. Plus, there's all those chickadees.

AC--not really a "but." My husband asked what prompted me to write this...and the truth is, it was a draft I had started a while back. Of course, as we get older, we do keep talking about where to live out our lives. Our house is a split-level, so there are only a few stairs. And it is familiar. The story I wrote about a few posts back--about the couple who got lost going home and ended up dying--points to the advantage of what is familiar. They had lived in several places, and part of their confusion may have come from relying on a memory that had changed. So,no but...but--

Grizz………… said...

So you don't prescribe to Frost's notion that "good fences make good neighbors"? (Okay, I'll give you that he was writing and likely thinking about a more rural setting.)

Whatever thoughts I have about moving always have to be distilled through the reality of moving 8-10,000 books…which, as willing helpers age, along with theirs and my spinal column, you really get down to honestly evaluating the motive/need business of relocation. Whim doesn't get it; only serious reason—and staying put looks increasingly favorable.

KGMom said...

Grizz (aka Scribe to me)--Ah, a poetry question. Love it. I always loved teaching this poem.
Note that Frost puts the line in the neighbor's mouth, and makes it somewhat playful.
He goes on to say:
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know/
What I was walling in or walling out,/
And to whom I was like to give offence.

That is Frost speaking--not the neighbor.
When I taught the poem, I would point out that Frost isn't praising fences or walls so much, as he is noting that it's the MENDING that leads to good neighbors. The shared work.

Speaking of which, certainly moving up to 10,000 books would require good friends (as surely as broken down walls would). Plus, you have that marvelous ever-changing river view. I wouldn't move from that, ever.

Anonymous said...

Well, in California, we mostly have fences and I'm of the "good fences make good neighbors" mode. However, we value our neighbors and neighborhood. When we bought this house, we bought the best house we could afford in the town we wanted to live in. We didn't anticipate having great neighbors but are so grateful for them. We have mended fences . . . from time to time.

Ginnie said...

Your reference to the brothers Berrigan brought back many memories for me. My husband was very much behind their movement, as was I at the time.
The years go so quickly and I can't believe that I've been in the same little house for almost 33years ! I'm glad you have good neighbors.

Ruth said...

We bought out first house the year after we were married and then 10 years later moved to a larger home right across the street. Sad to say, I do not know all my neighbours.

KGMom said...

Liza--good neighbors make the neighborhood so much nicer.

Ginnie--interesting that you too supported the Berrigans. With us living near Harrisburg, we certainly learned much about them. They stood by their convictions.

Ruth--our neighborhood is one of those places similar to yours in that peopple here move from one house to another, but stay in the neighborhood.

Peruby said...

Having dogs helps me get to know my neighbors. While walking them they are more inclined to talk to me (by way of a dog first). I am considering a fence for the safety of my dogs - I do not like the idea of fencing to separate me from my neighbors. I am always wandering over to their yard when we are outside together to chat with them. Nice post. Many elements to comment on.

KGMom said...

Peruby--dogs do enjoy a free run without fences. Several of our neighbors have those invisible fences, so the dogs move freely then stop at the zap line. And, of course, you could still wander into their yards.