Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

One of the most unexpected effects of last summer’s flood is how many of our neighbors have moved away. Some sold their houses not wanting to go though the process of filing insurance claims and restoring their houses (can’t blame them for that!). These houses have only recently been bought and work is just now beginning. One gutted their house and is trying to sell it now. Others restored their houses but are selling and moving.

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Our Street Flooded

This is happening all over the city. There is such a strange buying\selling situation where somehow everyone is coming out ahead. Contractors are buying flooded houses with cash and then restoring them and selling at market value. Minus the amount of time this is all taking (we are coming up on one year from the flood), ultimately this process should help stabilize our neighborhood. It’s fun seeing everyone getting new doors and windows, like we’re all getting face lifts.

Driving around the block now is disorienting, though. Some houses were quickly restored, have families living in them with beautifully landscaped yards. Others are sitting, gutted and abandoned, yards killed by piles of debris. Houses like ours fall somewhere in between. This past week, when we went to get our mail from the house, the kids and I noticed a neighbor’s FEMA trailer was taken out of their back yard. We all cheered for these neighbors we didn’t know but long to imitate — moving back into their house and getting out of sight of FEMA.

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Contractor and Real Estate Signs

We bought our house almost five years ago. Only recently did we stick our heads out and meet any neighbors, however. It didn’t take long to learn to always wear a bra (you just never know). Checking your mail on our street was a social occasion; a quick trip down the driveway to put the trash at the curb could become an unexpected, delightful 15 minute conversation with a neighbor.  Our girls found friends up and down the street to play with, which is really a gift for everyone, and they ran back and forth across the street. We knew which dogs to pet and which to leave be. From a cantankerous engine revving bright and early on a Saturday morning to the buzz of a drone in the evening after supper, we could hear the neighbors out and about, their lives overlapping our own in these small ways.  Our little block struck a comfortable balance of being both quiet and unimposing but also comforting and safe. Some of our neighbors were in their houses since they were built in the late 70’s, some not as long, but all of them had been there longer than us. Our neighbors were established and knew the history.  This was especially valuable last August when a neighbor from across the street knocked on our door, umbrella in hand, and asked “y’all know we’re going to flood?”

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Our House Waiting For the Water to Recede.

And now our little section on the street is dispersing. New cars come and go, new pets in and out. We are nervous, excited and anxious. Who will our neighbors be? Will they have kids? Will they take four years to say hello? Already there are new faces around when we go to work on the house. We haven’t stopped to introduce ourselves yet. I’m not sure I’ve seen the same new face twice; it’s unclear if they are the new homeowners or contractors. As the inside of our house becomes more familiar and inviting, outside the street feels foreign and deserted.

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Our Ever-More Inviting House

Our kids love to play outside, we don’t make a lot of noise, and, when we get chickens again, we can lend you eggs. Will you be our neighbor?

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