Good Neighbours

“I have such good memories of living next door to you,” Emily said to my parents. She was seven when they moved in. She’s 22 now. The youngest of three.

I’ve lived in my house, one block to the left of theirs, and then seven straight down, another to the right, for nearly twenty years. Close enough to walk. Even in the dark. I realise how lucky I am to say that. It has meant that Sunday lunches at their house – my Mum makes roast potatoes like no other – and a mid-week meet-up at one or other of the restaurants between us, have just been how it is. They walked from their side, we walked from ours.

Tonight we had our last one. Just the last one that they’ll be able to walk to. The retirement village is not one block to the left, and then seven straight down, another to the right. Tomorrow they move. It’ll be halfway between my lovely sister and family, and me. This is a good thing.

Tonight we dinnered, halfway between us, with their neighbours of the last fourteen years and their youngest daughter. She’s the one who’s 22.

My parents have a pool at their house. The one they’re leaving tomorrow. The neighbours don’t. When they moved in, the girls next door were 7, 9 and 11. They were welcomed to swim. At first, they’d use a bin on their side, to jump over. Then they just put a gate in.

I remember the first time I saw them, three little mites in swimming costumes, jumping and playing, as I sat in the kitchen chatting to my Mum as she creamed the spinach and my Dad carved the chicken.

“There are children in your pool,” I said, concerned.

“Oh, that’s just Jessica, Sarah and Em,” my Mum said as she stirred vigorously, “We’ve put a gate in.”

At that point I’d known my parents for 25 years, this wasn’t surprising, they’ve always been like that.

What was surprising, though, tonight, as we toasted Daisy, the sweet, gentle dog, who left us today, and my parents, who move tomorrow, was that Emily was there, with her parents. She’s 22, in her final year at university, with friends and a boyfriend, and her own digs in another suburb, and I’m sure has a dozen more interesting things to do, but she was there, tonight, with us, toasting.

“You don’t get neighbours like these,” she said. “It just doesn’t happen in the city, in the suburbs. Who’ll make us roast potatoes now?”

“You’ll have to come over to our new house, and Glen will show you,” said my Dad.

And that’s my parents, the ultimate example of good neighbours, and good people. Their new neighbours don’t have any idea – yet – of how good they’re getting it. I’m going to miss them being so close, though, and their lovely neighbours will too. The world would be a better place if we were all as good neighbours as they are.

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