The houses on the block in which I live are quite close together. On our one block we have defeated the odds of random chance by having 3 houses in a row with professors. Next door lives a young professor of archaeology/sociology with his family and next door to him is an older professor of business/statistics and his wife (and dog), and of course the third is my father who is a professor of physics.
My room on the second floor overlooks the back of the house and across a few backyards. Sometimes I see the younger professor out playing with his kids in his yard or just sitting reading on his front porch. He seems an outside kind of guy who putters around and fixes the moldings, paints his porches and fixes up his deck and yard. He reminds me so much of my father maybe 30 years ago. I don’t see his wife as often. She seems to come home to immediately rush the kids into the house. I rarely see her outside. The older professor I see only when he comes out to take his dog inside. His wife nods every so often when she walks said dog.
My room has another window that directly looks into the window of the house adjacent. The space between these two portals must be less than a dozen feet. When I was younger I think the room across was used as an office for previous owners because the shades were always drawn. I only saw the top of a desk. I left my shades up in the daytime and enjoyed the light. When the younger professor moved in I started to hear a child crying at night and think that room is now used as a nursery. My shades are now usually closed but I still hear the sense of movement, the lights turning on and off and noises of children. They seem to wake up very early and go to bed very early. Sometimes I wonder how we all live our lives within the space of a few hundred yards and remain almost complete strangers.
Down the street from us in a very big house surrounded by pine trees lives a middle-aged activist type woman with her one son and husband. They hold big parties every so often and I hear their swanky music making it’s way to the comfy porch chair I sit on outside in nice weather. Their son sometimes sells lemonade in the summers. After a snowstorm, she always seems to be enthusiastically cleaning the sidewalks around her house in the afternoon, eager to greet others.
Across the street there are two houses that have been turned into apartments. Sometimes there are students that live there, sometimes young professionals, mostly single. They come and go. During the summer the parking spots in front of their houses tend to remain empty.
On the next block there is a little Church with a Montessori daycare. On Thursday evenings around 5 or 6pm from May until August, you’ll hear the unusual sound of bagpipes coming from there, playing throughout the neighborhood. Once I saw an old couple set up twin lawn chairs near the Church just to listen.
Within walking distance we have a little post office, supermarket, library, bank, bagel and donut place, Chinese take-out, sandwich shop, park with playground, schools, dentists, dry cleaners, cafe, gas station, an independent movie theater, a pharmacy, and a liberal arts college! And yet this area is considered very residential with low crime.
One would be hard-pressed to find similar statistics anywhere. It really isn’t such a bad place. Even if it feels like we are surrounded by strangers, it is home.