Tuesday, November 18, 2008


We had big excitement on our block tonight. As I peeked out the front door, anticipating my husband’s arrival to pick up two very antsy daughters for Adventure Princess Campout, I spied not one, but THREE police cars parked a few houses down from us. Wow! I ran out without hesitation to join my neighbor and her daughter who had already come out to see what the fuss was about. We stared down the street, hypothesizing on what might be happening. Judging from the relaxed and jovial behavior of the policemen standing outside the house, we doubted anything serious had occurred. But it brought me back to a couple years ago when a similar scene was being played out in front of my home.

I had overindulged at a dinner date with my husband, John ~ not in alcohol, for me overindulgence always means food! My downfall! I prefer to eat my calories. J Anyhow, my tummy was upset on the way home, so we stopped at Dorothy Lane Market for some Gas-X, the wonderdrug. My friend, Dorthy says “Uberund” is her tummy deflator of choice, but for me, Gas-X rocks! Anyhow, I popped my Gas-X, got into my comfy old silky pajama shirt…the one I wore for hospital visitors after I had my babies (it’s huge and oh-so-comfy, but in my post-partum state, I believed the silky texture gave it some panache!)….and went to bed. After a few hours, however, I realized my Gas-X was not doing the trick and I started to wonder if perhaps a trip to the bathroom may be in order. Sitting on the potty was my last memory. John said he heard a THUD and when he came to check on me, he found me lying on the bathroom floor, panty-less, pajama shirt askew, out cold!

Through the fog and haze of unconsciousness, I heard John’s rather annoyed voice saying, “What are you doing down there, Lis?” Slightly annoyed, not worried. John is not a worrier…he leaves that to me, the professional. I opened my eyes and thought, “What AM I doing down here?!” I was staring at the bottom of my bathtub, my hands and arms splayed in a strange way in front of me. What on earth had happened? After debating a bit over whether my bizarre episode was worthy of a call to emergency services, we made the call. In our little haven here in Oakwood, it seems the emergency personnel arrive before you even finish relaying your address. I felt as though the words were still hanging in the air as they knocked on my door. Here I found myself, still quite clammy and much disheveled, answering the questions of my concerned safety officer while I pondered the whereabouts of my AWOL panties, when John thoughtfully and unexpectedly brought the wadded up undies into the room and plopped them on the desk next to me and the officer. How DO you discreetly and nonchalantly retrieve your underwear in such a situation? Is there an elegant way to do that? I don’t know. I opted for the grab and go.

Soon, I was more properly attired, if you can call old sweats “attire”, and it was decided that I should run up to the hospital and let them look me over. As we exited the house to enter the ambulance, I was met with the concerned faces of my neighbors. It’s hard to explain the mix of thankfulness and mortification that overwhelms you at a moment like that. I was so amazed that my neighbors would leave the comfort of their beds to come stand outside and see how they could help. Just to make sure we were okay. Of course, I would have preferred to greet them looking a little less scary, but at least I was wearing my underpants. For months afterward, it delighted my daughter Lily no end to tell people how her mommy fell off the potty and had to go to the hospital in the ambulance.

It was quite a little adventure for our family that night; full of lots of embarrassing moments (did I mention when I threw up in the MRI room, my hospital gown fell off?). But what stands out to me about that night was my neighbors’ kind and compassionate response. These days, we tend to do all we can to close ourselves off from community. I’m a chief offender! I email friends rather than phone, shop via internet rather than in brick and mortar stores, eat drive-thru in the car on the way home rather than go inside. Goodness! I don’t even have to interact with videostore clerks anymore in the age of Netflix! In many suburbs, people hunker down in their immense homes, surrounded by their immense yards, a virtual fortress of solitude and isolation. Even the communities themselves are isolated by gates.

But that’s not the trend here in Oakwood. It’s a small town, and many times I’ve heard people talk about the “close living”. It’s literally close! Our lot is about a tenth of an acre. I have tiny bathrooms and tiny closets and a tiny garage. But I love it. We moved here for the schools, but we found something far more valuable. We stayed for the COMMUNITY. Our neighbors here have actually been Neighborly! When we moved in, several of them welcomed us with delicious cookies and muffins. They’ve offered to help us on many occasions and were generous with their tools and time and experience. When we have vacationed, they have looked out for our home. When we brought home our new daughter, they celebrated her arrival. We have conversations over fences, thru windows, across streets and yards. They notice what is happening in our lives. We are friends. I like that. That is invaluable.

I’ve heard good fences make good neighbors, but our fence is awful. It’s a rusty old chain-link eyesore. I think good hearts make good neighbors. Hearts that look outside the boundaries of their own lives, their own homes, to what is happening next door. Hearts that are connected to hands and feet that move to serve and care and encourage. Hearts connected to voices that say, “Hi! How are you today? What’s new with your family?” We have been blessed to live among neighbors with hearts like these. It makes us want to stay. It makes my heart want to respond in kind. To imitate. To emulate. I want to be a good neighbor too.

The police have gone now. They mosied over to their cars and drove away with no fanfare. We are relieved that their behavior indicates that no emergency has befallen our neighbor. But I think rather than just hypothesizing about what may have happened, I will walk over and check on them. After all, they are not just my neighbors ~ they are my friends.

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