by Donna Huffaker Evans
Growing up, neighbors were people on the periphery of our lives. We waved to them across the fence, or nodded as they drove by, but neighbors weren’t friends and vice versa.
“Well, we don’t need them knowing all our business,’’ Mom quipped, as if the guy two yards away might’ve sold our grilling secrets to the Soviets.
Mom never borrowed a cup of anything from anyone, and no one on our street ever just popped over, like Ethel did to Lucy or Larry did to Jack on Three’s Company.
Of course those TV characters lived in apartments, not houses, so proximity was on their side. Mom, like many people, looked at owning a home as a step above apartment living, where you don’t have to smell other people’s dinners or find out at an unfortunate hour that the neighbor above you really, really enjoys thrashing to the sounds of Slayer.
I wanted it all, minus Slayer. I hoped for a home where neighbors knew my name, and I, theirs. Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.’’ I wanted neighbors who made good friends. Friends who could help you out of a jam, should one arise.
When you live alone, though, you get pretty crafty at doing things yourself rather than asking for help. Furniture’s too heavy? Plop one end on a rug and drag. Can’t open the jelly jar? Use that rubber twist-off thing. Lock yourself out? Stash extra keys everywhere. And yes, give one to your neighbor.
It’s been a long time since I’ve lived alone, and I’ve never had to ask a neighbor for help. Milk? Yes. Ice? Yup. But not assistance.
You could say Dan has spoiled me. In the past, I’ve relied on him to reach the screaming fire alarm or hoist the heavy pan from the oven depths. And when a dress zipper snags, Dan’s the one who guides it back into place and latches the little hook that otherwise would require a good yoga stretch.
But on Tuesday, hours after he was safely at work and 20 minutes until I needed to be at an interview 10 minutes away, I’d zipped myself into a situation. Seems I’d grown out of the little yellow dress that, at one time, had left lots of room for growth. My freshly moisturized hands slipped every time I yanked the zipper upward.
Sweat beads rolled down my reddened face as I realized unzipping it was no longer an option.
My neighbor, Mark! Sure, I was new to the loft, but I’d talked to him several times, and we’d cocktailed and barbecued on the roof. I doubted neither my husband nor his boyfriend would mind my asking him to help me dress.
Turns out, my pleading text was lost in translation, but after he ROFL, he asked how he could help. By that point, needle nose pliers saved the day – and the dress – and I arrived to my meeting perspiring, but prompt.
Hours later I bumped into Mark at the mailboxes.
“That dress looks great on you! How’d the interview go?’’
Now that’s a good neighbor. Good friend? Here, they’re one in the same.
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