January 12, 2012

these are the people in your neighborhood

This morning I walked Evelyn to school amidst wind and rain and overcast skies. The very picture of a blustery day. We walked a little quicker than normal, heads down against the wind, umbrella pulled tight over my shoulders and Evie tucked firmly into my side, trying to keep dry and warm. It was nasty weather to be out in. So nasty that, most people weren't. And I realized, as I walked home along the mostly empty sidewalk, that I wasn't seeing people that I usually do. That I've gotten to know, if only by sight, the people in our neighborhood. Just like the song.
Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day.

I loved that song as a kid. I was a PBS kid. Kermit and Big Bird, along with Mr. Rodgers, well, they formed a lot of my early opinions of the world.

I grew up in a small town, so I knew the neighbors and the postman and the people walking down the street, at least most of them. And Charlottesville was also like that. You couldn't go out without seeing someone you know. That's a comforting thing, at least for me. It's also something I assumed I'd give up, living here.

Except, even in a big city, neighbors are important. So on this blustery day, I missed seeing my neighbors out and about. The three barbers who stand out in front of their shop every morning arguing, pausing only to nod or say good morning as I pass. The fruit vendor setting out persimmons and pears in his giant furry hat. The little waiter who sweeps the sidewalk in front of the bistro, the drivers who deliver the day visitors to the retirement home, the lady with the teeny little white dog who always smiles at Evelyn as she skips along. I don't know them, really, but I know them. And they know me. Even in this big city, we pause and smile, nod or wave.
At least my favorite bar sign was out and ready for the day, rain or no rain. I'm not sure without my daily dose of bar humor.