Tuesday, May 30, 2006

living in the hood

I miss my “problem” neighbors.

About 4 years ago a large family from Chicago moved into the rental ½ block away. They told us everyone was getting shot in Chicago, so they had to get out to make a new start. My house church’s mission was based on Matthew 22: 37-40: love God and love your neighbor. We made an attempt at living this out, most literally. Then last winter, these neighbors had to move because the condition of their house was such that there was either no gas, electricity or running water—one or two of the three…I forget which. They are a large family. Ages ranging from 27 to 5 but then there were always cousins who were over, cousins, “aunts,” “uncles” and grandma…oh, boy!. Grandma was a trip! Even though there were the occasional cop call at their house all hours of the night and elaborate stories of domestic violence and stabbings, I miss them. Here’s what I miss about them.

1. I miss waking up some Saturday morning to my doorbell being pushed about a million times in a row.

2. I miss sitting on my doorstep cuddling with 2 or 3 kids, listening to animated story telling.

3. I miss little Derrick’s comedies and sassy story telling. As a four year old he was already a ham.

4. I miss watching these kids roll anything with wheels at top speed, down the street with the steep hill right by my house. One summer they even used a cooler till its wheels fell off.

5. I love it how my brother was the ultimate consultant of moral behavior. Most usually they asked him about whether or not certain items they had found were free for the taking. Once they even busted me for burning things in my back yard. “Are you supposed to be setting things on fire in your back yard? Does Tim know you are doing this?”

6. I miss having them ask me to water my flowers. And then sending them home drenched.

7. I miss coming home from work and having the entire four block area erupt in children screaming my name and running at me as I pulled up to my house.

8. I miss handing out apples and bananas and drinks of water.

9. I (almost) miss the steady stream of “uncles” who came over with the kids to sweet talk, smooth talk, or whatever… I liked the challenge of trying to outwit them and finding buttons to push.

10. I miss the sisters and brothers and their families who came to visit both our neighbors, as well as us. They expected us to show up at the gatherings at their house too and were mad at us when we got too busy.

11. I miss learning how to talk like a sassy black girl from the hood.

12. I loved having little companions for every home improvement project I embarked upon.

13. I liked the strait talking, no pretense, lifestyle and demeanor.

14. I loved the million and one questions the kids asked. Why don’t you make such and such your boyfriend? Why do white people not have babies? Why are you always working? Why do I have to wash my hands? Can you fix my bike? Can you put air in my tires? Can I have a ride in your truck? It’s my birthday. Can I have a birthday present? When are we going to have another party? Can I have a ride up the street to my friend’s house? Can I come into your house? Can I help you clean your house?


S-Nisly said...

Thank you. I need to hear that with neighbors that seem way too close sometimes.

Blorge said...

We had a favorite neighbor-kid. His name was LeShawn. His brother was DeShawn. We assumed their dad's name was Shawn, but we never met their parents. LeShawn was a good kid who got dealt a bad hand in life.

The family just packed up and left their rental house one night. It was left vacant and the back door ripped off, so one of the neighbors went inside to make sure everything was ok. She said that it was absolutely trashed inside.

After a few complaints to the owners and eventually to the police about having a vacant house with overgrown lawn and a missing back door that was just asking for trouble, the owners came and boarded it up and mowed the lawn. The house has sat boarded up since then.

Whenever I look at that house and the boards on the windows and the doors, I get sad.