Remember that birthday cake my co-workers gave me a few weeks ago? Well, only a quarter of it was eaten at work and they convinced me to take the rest of it home. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea since I can have an insatiable sweet tooth, but I decided I would slice it up and give it away to my neighbors instead of eating more and feeling guilty (and sick). My neighbors were thrilled!
I know I’ve mentioned my neighborhood before but I haven’t really told you too much about it. I live in a neighborhood called “East Passyunk Square” in South Philadelphia. It’s a melting pot of young families, hipsters, yippies, and some Italian families that have lived here their whole lives. I have neighbors who were born in the house they live in now, I have neighbors who live in Costa Rica half the year on a coffee farm, and I have neighbors who are young professionals like me and Jeff. Along with the diversity, there are many things to love about the neighborhood: convenience to Center City, the restaurants, the shops, and lastly – the community. Over the past two years I have come to love my neighborhood so much that I miss it when I’m away.
But things weren’t always that way.
When Jeff and I first moved in, I was somewhat put off our neighbors. I felt that some were nosy – sitting on their stoops and staring at me. We live in a row home and I always felt our neighbors knew whether I was home or away, and were keeping tabs on my routine. I often wished for a backdoor that I could sneak in and out of easily. But that all began to change about six months after we moved in.
We adopted Hugo in March of 2009, and because of this, we started walking around the neighborhood multiple times a day, at all hours. We gradually met more and more of our neighbors. Obviously, we met the dog people first: Javier’s mom, Becket’s dad, Teddy’s mom – you get the point. We got used to seeing these people and would strike up conversations about a new restaurant that opened or make plans to go to the dog park together. Slowly but surely we got more comfortable and introduced ourselves to other neighbors and I started to change my mind. Nosy no more, the presence of our neighbors became a constant that I could count on to watch out for me and my house. I began to feel acceptance from both sides too – I think they just needed to get to know us and see that we were good citizens and were making improvements to our house thus making the neighborhood a nicer place to be. The stares turned to smiles and then greetings by name. Before I knew it, I was scheduling monthly get-togethers, and when all the winter storms hit and we had no where else to go, we held game nights and wine and beer tastings where Jeff shared his home brew. Today, a group of us meet bi-weekly to discuss neighborhood issues and most recently coordinated an alley clean up day where about 40 neighbors got together to pick up trash, trim trees, and make the overgrown alleys accessible to the homeowners.
An older Italian lady at the end of my block often hangs on her stoop smoking cigarettes all day. We have become quite friendly even though some other neighbors have warned me to take her elaborate stories with a grain of salt. I enjoy her and I think she is funny. So as I mentioned, on my birthday, I gave her a couple pieces of the cake and she was thrilled. About 20 minutes later, there is a knock at my door and it’s her, returning my plate filled with garlic, cheese sticks, jello pudding, a tomato and a sweet potato. She said that it was her custom to give me something in return. (I’m pretty sure she cleaned out her refrigerator!) Even though it was kind of a random “gift”, I found it incredibly charming and a unique experience specific to this neighborhood.
Jeff and I often talk about moving to the country and have big plans for a farm where we can live off the land. But I don’t know anymore, I think I want to keep this house forever; this is my community and these people have become part of my extended family.
Inspired by Annie’s print, I’ll be starting a new series called “I Love This Town” featuring shops and restaurants in my neighborhood with pictures and reviews every Wednesday. Thanks for letting me gush and reflect.