For almost twenty years, we lived in a farmhouse where our nearest neighbors were a long way away. Hubby’s brother and sister-in-law lived down the road with a field between us, so we could see each other’s houses, and they were great neighbors, but you definitely couldn’t talk to each other without a phone call or a drive down the road.
And then four years ago, we moved here, to a house in a neighborhood, with, frankly, some concern about having close neighbors, after our years of “wide open spaces.” But, we have come to feel like we have won some sort of “neighbor lottery.” We could not have picked nicer neighbors — even if it WERE possible to “pick” your neighbors.
All of our neighbors are great, but what inspired me to write this is the house next door, and the terrific couple who live there.
The family who lived there when we moved in transferred out of town with his job soon thereafter and the house sat empty for a year and a half. During that time, I prayed and prayed about that house and who would buy it. It hadn’t been taken care of, so didn’t “show” very well. The longer it was on the market, the more I worried about who could possibly see it’s potential, looking past it’s slightly bedraggled yard and not so sparkly clean interior.
Finally, it was bought — and by a wonderful couple — Belinda and Mike — who truly DID see its potential, and set about making it a beautiful home that anyone would be proud of — through lots of long hours and hard work. And, that isn’t the only way they perked up our neighborhood.
Mike has a sailboat with a beautiful sail in all the colors of the rainbow. It is so peaceful to watch him gliding across the lake. And, they both were so kind to our dog, Akela. If they were out in their yard, and Akela was out in our yard, one of them would come over and throw the disk for her (her FAVORITE thing in all the world to do!)
Mike would be mowing, and Akela would take the disk and lay at the very edge of our yard and just watch him. A not-to-subtle hint. And, at some point, he would stop and come over and throw for her for a while, and then give her a tummy rub, and then go back to mowing. The last time I saw him give her a tummy rub was just a week before she died (by that time she was no longer able to chase the disk). They were both wonderful “friends” to her.
Belinda and I have slowly gotten to know each other, and what a treat she is! She is always interesting to talk to — and always interested in what is going on with us. We happened to see each other at the hair salon we both go to, right after Akela died, and had a little impromptu, tearful “remembering Akela” moment right there in the waiting room.
Last Sunday afternoon I was baking — a very messy proposition. I had made chili for lunch and Hubby had eaten some earlier, but I had waited for a “break in the action” before I took time to eat. So, I had cleared off a spot on the island just large enough for my bowl of chili and glass of milk and was sitting there eating a late lunch, among the clutter of baking, in my flour-dusted old clothes, and Hubby walked in the garage door, calling, “Sandra Ann!!” Just the way he said it (and, by the way, this is a whole post of its own, but my name is NOT Sandra Ann), I knew before I turned around, that someone was there! Rats. Messy kitchen. Messy me.
Let me disgress for a moment. We exchange some little edible treat with Mike and Belinda next door and with Jack and Sandy across the street each Christmas. On Friday night, Jack had come to the door with a Kringle from Wisconsin, which is their delicious gift every year. It’s a wonderful circle of pastry with a variety of fillings — this year, ours was apple. Anyway, once he did that, I knew I’d better get our gifts for both of those couples done too. So, their gifts were some of the baking I had done that afternoon.
As soon as I turned around and saw a smiling Belinda standing at the door with a bag in her hand, I guessed that Jack had inspired her to “get cracking” too and she was here to deliver a Christmas goodie. Not just ANY Christmas goodie either. It was a loaf of freshly baked homemade bread, a jar of homemade jelly, and a tin of wonderful hint-of-lemon flavored frosted sugar cookies. All wrapped very artistically in white butcher paper, done up with dark brown silk ribbon, with red berries. If I didn’t know already that Belinda had an artistic “bent,” I would have known by how artistic not only the gifts were, but the wrappings.
Now, this is what I love about Belinda. She sat right down there on the other stool, in my messy kitchen, drank a soda, and chatted. Because she is so comfortable to be around, whereever she is, it didn’t bother me at all that my kitchen and I were both a mess! So, we had a great visit, and she left. (Taking the blueberry buckle I had made for them with her. Nice of her to pick up her own gift!)
Okay. Here’s the reason I’m writing this post about Belinda and Mike today. This afternoon I took a little nap (that’s one of the great “perks” of being retired). When I got up, Hubby said that Belinda had stopped by to drop off another gift! Another gift?! And then he showed it to me. It was a very special Christmas tree ornament. It was a picture of Akela that they had taken. It was cut in a circle and covered with a circle of beveled glass, with a hole in the top with a ribbon through it. I was soooo touched. I called Belinda to thank her, and she said, “We loved her too.”
Not just neighbors but friends who have demonstrated their friendship through sharing our grief over the loss of our beloved pet.
We are very thankful for our wonderful neighbors. They may have been “free” — but they are also “priceless!”