Neighbors

A family from another country moved to a city where I work and the husband asked if he could bring us a traditional meal. He said it was common in his country when you moved to bring food to your neighbors as a way to become part of the new community and new culture.

When I was a kid way back in the 1960s it was the opposite. When someone new moved into your neighborhood, you took food to the new family as a way to welcome them. It was a common thing to make a casserole or bake a pie and go to the stranger’s house and introduce your family.

Does that still happen? I’m trying to remember when wanting to welcome someone new turned into fear of going to a stranger’s door.

Maybe in the 1970s when razor blades started appearing in Halloween candy. That was around the time kids stopped running freely and unchaperoned through their neighborhoods knocking on a stranger’s door.

Maybe when children started disappearing more frequently. That was around the time kids couldn’t stay out playing on their own until the streetlights came on to remind you to run home for dinner.

I’m sure there are a lot of places where people still take a pie to a new neighbor but I’m willing to bet that happens in rural areas. I could be wrong. Does it happen in cities when a new tenant moves into an apartment building? I like to think it does; that there are people still out there not afraid.

Yet at the same time, there are reasons to be, maybe not afraid, but certainly cautious.

When my son was little everyone in our small community knew where the kids belonged and where they were supposed to be. He could run wild with his friends because it was safe and luckily local kids can still do that. Would I have let him run around in the city? No. Though I admit it’s because I don’t know cities. Maybe there are neighborhoods where kids are safe to stay out until moths begin circling street lights.

Is it more common now to peer out behind curtains when a new person moves into the neighborhood? I hope not.

It makes me wonder how many people know the names of their neighbors. In the little community where I live I know the names of all my neighbors. I’m pretty familiar with their schedules. I wander across the street to share books or seedlings or invitations to dinner.

Yet when someone new moves in it never crosses my mind to take them food. We’ll meet eventually in our comings and goings.

I’m looking forward to trying traditional food from this new family’s country. And I think I need to return the gesture, not necessarily to resurrect a tradition but to return, briefly, to a time when we weren’t afraid of the stranger behind the door.

4 thoughts on “Neighbors

  1. It wouldn’t surprise me if the reason the welcoming gesture of bringing food to new neighbors fell by the wayside is because people move so much more now. When I was a kid, we knew everyone on the block as well as surrounding blocks. People didn’t move away, moms stayed home (for the most part), and every summer we’d have block parties, or we kids would have “fairs” or put on plays or just generally be adventurous. My friends lived nearby and so did most of the family. Looking back, it certainly seemed idyllic. I suspect much is due to the lens one looks through. Times have changed, that much is true. We’ve lost some things, but then we’ve gained as well. How wonderful you are receptive to someone else’s culture — that was one thing I can tell you was lacking when I was a kid.

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    • That’s a good point about people moving so much more now. I remember once being told that if you traced your family back at least five generations you would find that someone in your family married someone in your husband’s family – because people didn’t move like they do now.

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  2. This was a custom in my home country too! A neighbor would bring over a dish of something to welcome the newcomers. Introduce themselves and get to know the new people. But it doesn’t happen these days. Neither back in my country nor in any of the two countries I’ve lived in over the past eight years. You said it: We are scared. I am hesitant to knock on my neighbors door… and so are they! It’s sad.

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    • I’m not sure quite how to move past that fear, or hesitancy, either. I want to reach out and return to those traditions and then I think about how much sheer nastiness has been released into the world the past few years and I don’t want to be faced with that. Which means I give no one a chance to show that there are still good people. Plus I then don’t show anyone else that there are still good people around…it’s a catch-22 and I don’t like it. So it’s up to me to do something about it. Think I’ll bake something.

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