Who needs a bridge if you don’t notice the water?

Posted by on 05.13.10 | 4 Comments
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This is the way it goes:

I walk to the grocery store to get something for dinner. Right around the corner, right after passing the corner house with its rickety wire fence and its two giant great dane sized dogs, I passed the white house. I passed it right as a little girl reached the end of the front walk, and two boys behind her were punching each other in the back and roughhousing, and their mother was coming out the front door and telling them to knock it off and get into the car. I look at the girl and say “Hi. How are you?”. “Hi”, she says.

I get to the store and grumble about the new Rent-To-Own Center that somehow in the last few weeks has been built into the front of the store. Now when you walk in, you are greeted with eight television screens. Today with some animated frog. I just want milk. The animated frogs make me angry. Rent-to-own is a big rip-off as much as I know about it. A constant foreclosure in the world of home goods.

While I stare at the brownie mixes and determine that yes, I want the one with the fudge topping, I hear behind me. “Hey, Mama? Is that dog sugar?”
“No,” comes the answer, “No. It’s just sugar with a dog on the package.”
I look up, and there’s this little girl, with two brothers, and a Mama.
“We just saw her!!!”, says the little girl, pointing to me.
“Yes, we did.” says her Mama.
“I just walked by your house, ” I say, “I’m your neighbor.”
“Our neighbor!” says the girl
“You have to walk by the giant dogs with the scary fence at the corner to get to my house from yours,” I say

And so we meet.

Here is one thing I am learning over and over from this neighborhood. We have a hard time meeting, sometimes. Breaking into each other’s privacies – we protect each other from ourselves. And then, just as we are about to maybe smile briefly and go on with our private conversations in our heads….

Here it is again, in case you missed it: “We just saw her!!!”. It takes a little one to scream out the obvious. The recognition. The “We crossed paths just, like, just in front of my house!”


I have gone out of my way to meet most of the people on my block on my own. However, for two years or so of living in this house, all three adjoining lots to mine were vacant. One from foreclosure. One wasn’t renting. One was for sale. At one point all three were for sale. Now, they are all full. One bought on the cheap from foreclosure. One bought on the cheap and renovated and rented. One simply rented.

It was this family that I never introduced myself to. I’m not sure why. The two rottweilers? The general air of stand-offishness? That it was clear that they were a family that had moved from a “loud” street to a “quiet” street? That the previous renter’s car had been set on fire the first weekend I’d moved in? Because they didn’t look like me? Or act like me? All of the above?

“Whatcha doing?”

This is the clarion call of the neighborhood ambassador. The one who will rule nations. The one who will not succomb to the wills of the surrounding winds. She is my 12-year old neighbor. This is her cry.

“Whatcha doing?”, she asks, as I paint parts of the sides of my house that are closest to hers. I have not spoken to anyone in her family. “What color are you painting? Is it going to be blue again? That’s boring. Is it going to be blue? Why are you doing that? Why are you working so hard?”

And so we meet.
Her family and I talk often now.

The ambassadors I know – the ones building bridges over cavernous voids that they don’t even notice – they walk on water that they don’t even notice they are crossing. They are six years old. They are twelve. The rarest of all, is the one that is thirty-seven. Or Fifty-two.

“Hi. Whatcha doing?”

:”We just saw you.”

We just saw you.



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