When we moved into our house a year and half ago, we won the neighbor lottery. The house next door was home to children ages 4, 6, and 7, a perfect complement to our 4- and 6-year-olds. Over the last 18 months I watched the kids develop a deep friendship. It wasn't just that they were the same ages, they were cut from the same cloth. The kids bounced from house to house, quickly becoming well-acquainted with each others' toys and acting more like siblings than friends.
And I sometimes felt like a mom of five. The neighbor children knew how to interpret my pre-coffee grunts and what my favorite pajamas look like. Sometimes the familiarity got a little too familiar, like when the youngest started just letting himself in without knocking. But even that felt more good than annoying. Our little family was a bigger (crazier, more chaotic) family with our neighbors as an extension.
In spring, the kids' friendship blossomed over Legos built in the driveway. In the summer, they played outdoors from morning to dusk, and sometimes beyond. They were spies on the swing set, football players catching a pass to win the big game and Civil War soldiers camping for the night in the garage. In the fall, they jumped in the leaves and went trick-or-treating together. In winter they built snow forts while "helping" us parents shovel. It was a friendship across the seasons.
And as for me, I loved having a neighbor who wasn't afraid to ring my doorbell at 5 pm in her pajamas and an apron asking if I had a beer to spare. Never having to set up playdates. Always knowing there was somebody who had my back as a mother if I needed her. Living far from family, I'd never had that kind of support system—the kind you can access on a whim without having to drive for hours.
But as quickly as it started, it's ended. A job transfer. The moving truck has pulled away and the neighbors are gone—2,775 miles away. The adults said our good-byes with tears in our eyes. The children didn't seem as troubled, not realizing what a rarity it is to have what they had.
The kids have exchanged "I miss you" videos and letters and promised to visit each other this summer. And, alas, I'm now scheduling playdates and missing those easy days of yore when the kids could just run next door. We're waiting for the empty house next door to be filled again—watching for the next moving truck with hope and tempered expectations to see who comes next.
Have you ever had neighbors who made a big difference in your life (good or bad)?
Tracy Odell is General Manager of Parents Digital and the mom of two boys who luckily make friends easily. Follow her on twitter at @tracyodell.
Image courtesy of Tracy Odell