Friday, April 25, 2008

This is how we know it is spring:

On Friday, a 3rd grader we have known for years came over to see if our nephews (who stayed the weekend with us) could come out to play basketball. We were given the goal and had just placed it outside our house.

On Saturday, our nephews would rather stay at our house than go to the Indianapolis zoo. I played basketball referee through the open kitchen window while washing dishes.

On Sunday, our backyard neighbor (whom, until very recently, I viewed with suspicion, to say the least) went to church with us and played basketball with the gang of kids that is now perpetually at our house. He was great with the kids.

On Monday, I returned the 3rd grader's shirt to him and picked up the basketballs from the backyard.

On Tuesday, the two year old across the street yelled something unintelligible as I took Israel outside to water the flowers. Her mom came out and asked if the girl could sit on our porch swing. We sat and talked about how to change babies' diapers (like this: "Swish!" and swoop your hands up...) and how to go down a slide (sitting on a swing, putting your feet out...) and how to look both ways and hold hands when I walk her back to her house.

On Wednesday, a little neighbor boy came over and knocked on my door as one of my piano students was arriving. "Somebody's here," he said. "I know." I had seen them out the window. The last student left and he met her and her mom at the door. "That sounded real good! I thought it was the ice cream truck!"

On Thursday, the girl who lives caddy corner from us came over and knocked on my door. "This was in your mailbox," she said, and handed me my out-going mail. Another girl came to borrow sugar for her mom.

Last night, our backyard neighbor knocked on our door after 11:00 pm. We joined everyone on their front porches to watch the fire trucks put out the fire that was blazing from the business three doors down. My neighbor from two doors down brought her boys and we sat wearing blankets on our porch until midnight to make sure the fire was more than extinguished.

This morning, my dog ran to my gardening neighbor out of preference over me while I was weeding our front yard. He loved her and sent her back.

We are a motley crew, our block. There's the widow whose boyfriend and his friend help care for her four kids -- the little girl who I think is the nicest and her sister, who is the loudest. And the blended family with three elementary-aged boys, one with quintessential red hair and stick-out ears, one I can barely understand, and they all smile every time they knock on our door and even disobey politely. And the drug dealer's boyfriend, who turns out seems to be a great guy. And the great, friendly guy with braids who has promised us the aid of his gun if we ever need it and, I am surprised to find out, is into the political race and a staunch Obama supporter. The older gardener who comes over sometimes merely to walk our dog and who blew out his birthday candles in our dining room. And then there are the kids who you would think live on our block, who come from all around just to see what we're doing and ask where Pat is and whether they can play with our dog and get a drink out of our water hose. Sometimes, it seems to me that I surprisingly live in a strange version of the 1950's when everyone congregates on their front porches and carries on conversations across yards and fences and streets. Even the neighbors I don't really know comment on Israel's disposition while I'm outside weeding my yard.

This is how we know it is spring: Our neighborhood is blooming. New relationships are sprouting and there is new growth on the old ones.

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