We moved to our current house about 3 years ago. At the closing we met the previous owner, Linda, and her daughter. I haven't attended a lot of closings but I can't imagine many were as good as this one. Her family had lived there for 30 years. She didn't really want to move but the large house had become too much for one person to maintain after her husband passed a couple years earlier. She told us stories about the house, their kids and all the fun they had. We couldn't wait to move in. On the way out she was pretty teary, understandably, and told us, "you will love your neighbors."
Shortly after we moved in the neighbors starting showing up with baked goods and phone numbers. They told us stories about the neighborhood. We learned that there was a 40 year old tradition of a progressive dinner. Each side of the street alternated years. It might get a little silly and involve costumes they warned, correctly. We learned that if our pool was open for the neighborhood swim all we had to do is put some purple sweat pants on a stick at the end of the driveway and people would show up — still haven't tested that. We learned that our former owner, Fred, used to have regular contests with our neighbor Zark (great name, right?) to see who could dress more ridiculously while mowing the grass. In short, we moved into a neighborhood of weirdos who happened to be 20+ years our seniors. It was perfect.
Last night I attended the neighborhood Christmas party hosted by the neighborhood "Queen" (yes, they have titles as well). It was great to see Linda, our previous owner, and get caught up with other neighbors we hadn't seen in a while. Even when people move away, which is rare, they still come back for the parties. We planned the next progressive dinner (it's the other side's turn to host) and they reminisced about past parties. There used to be a neighborhood olympics that, from the sounds of it, was as much of an alcohol endurance test as anything resembling sports. Not sure if I'm up for reviving that one.
When you think about buying a new home do you take time to visit your potential new neighbors? We didn't and I wondered later — why hadn't we? It's actually a really important part of moving — the people you live around can greatly increase or deteriorate your happiness. We got lucky.
Another interesting thing about our "new" neighborhood is that people don't move away. They just keep building on to their homes. There are original 1950s families (now in their 80s) still living on our street. Most of our neighbors have been there for 30+ years and have no intention of moving. Even after their kids have grown up and left, they stuck around. I think this is because the neighborhood, more than any other I've known, has become something of a family unit. People know and take care of each other. Although they have taken us in with open arms I am also watching closely, studying, so that we can carry on the traditions.
I couldn't imagine living anywhere else.
This post is part of Think Kit 2011.