Monday, July 21, 2008

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

Sing it with me, won't you?

Back when Sesame Street was new (and I was too), I remember vividly the people in that song-inspiring neighborhood...Bob, Gordon, Susan, even Mr. Hooper (may he rest in peace.) But in my "real" childhood neighborhood -- living in an apartment in the DC area -- we didn't have relationships with grocery store proprietors or fix-it shop owners; no friendly rapport with the local veterinarian and certainly no playdates with a gargantuan yellow bird. That sensational street was as imaginary to me as was Fred and Wilma's prehistoric 'hood or George and Jane's futuristic galaxy dwelling.

Not so for Darren and Sarah. Since their births, I've been keenly aware of the socially beneficial and long-lived relationships we've made with the people in our neighborhood...people who know them by name, and who lavish them with praise and affection. So starting today, in acknowledgment, appreciation, and a desire to document these positively life-impacting folks, we're going to introduce you to the people in our neighborhood.

Meet "Ma" and Mrs. Neely, of the ICater Cafe.

When the kids were stroller-sized (around age 3 or so), we had a car repair to make. The day was pretty, so I dropped the car with our favorite mechanics (there's a future post...), extracted Darren and Sarah, loaded up the DuoGlider, and strollin' we went for a few hours while our car was being serviced. Happening upon a cute little restaurant, right around lunch time, in we went. After some server doting upon our darlings, our lunch order was requested...that's when I noticed it. The missing Visa/MC sticker on the front window. Sure enough, when I asked if they took credit cards (my only means of possible payment that day), they confirmed (with palpable apology) that they did not. Now here's where the story gets good:

Mrs. Neely: "But don't worry about it, Honey. You just order what you all want for lunch and come back and pay us later."

I have no reservations putting that in quotes because that is exactly what she said. Verbatim. In the 21st century. Since I couldn't bring myself to actually do that, I ordered a lemonade for us to split and a fruit cup (I had a whopping $4 in my pocket). Since that day, we've been regulars. We sit at the "special" table with a white cloth. We play the "guessing game" while waiting for our food. Darren now reads from the little blackboard the soups of the day, and always orders one. Sarah's "bun-free" preference for her hot dog is known and there's no need to voice the special request. The ZooPals plates are always used. Our first swim lessons were conducted by Mrs. Neely's granddaughter, "Coach Laura." The ICater prepared all the food for our Papa's 90th birthday celebration. We mourned with Ma upon her husband's passing. When "Poppy" (Mrs. Neely's husband) comes in when we're there, there are grins and tickles and "Look, who's here!-s." Sarah and Darren's picture is hanging by the register...alongside images of family members and health department certifications.

As the song says, "they're the people that you meet, when you're walking down the street," but I daresay these are not "the people that you meet each day."

They're much more; and I thank them.


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18 comments:

Sheena said...

We had a place like that before I was married, all during my pregnancy and up until this first year of the girls life. They catered my wedding, was a place I craved during my pregnancy and was there every day, and they even brought me real food a day after their birth in the hospital! I am sad to say that they had to close the restaurant and move away and are greatly missed. It is great to have that connection with someone though.

Sharlene said...

I wish we had a place like that. We moved to a new area and just haven't developed many new relationships yet. I guess it will come with time.

Gibson Twins said...

What a great place that must be!

We live in a city that is not either of our "hometowns" so it was hard meeting people, everything felt so strange. The one place we had to go- the grocery store and ironically it is where we have met some of the kindest people who say hi to the babies by name, they've been seeing them 3-4 times a week since the babies were actually babies at a month or so old. The deli girl sees us coming and grabs 2 slices of cheese for them; while ringing us out, "our" cashiers totally love on them. It is a great experience and I don't dread grocery shopping with the kids anymore.


Hope you guys are staying cool!

Nancy said...

That's so sweet!! My husband and I both grew up in small communities, so now that we're in a larger one we feel as though we've lost a little bit - but we're working on it.

We moved about a year ago and are just starting to know our neighbors/neighborhood. We threw a big BBQ and invited everyone on our street - many could make it and those who couldn't seemed to be truly bummed. We get a lot more waves now LOL

We also joined a local church and see many of those people in the grocery store and around town...I'm just starting to recognize people when they aren't in their "designated" spot. (you know, their backyard... church... etc.)

Perhaps I should start frequenting one of the smaller delis :)

bestfamily said...

Yep, joys of small town living! When I read the title I didn't think about SS I thought...Mr. Rogers! LOL

Cheryl Lage said...

Mr. Rogers would be equally apropos! ;)

Barbara Manatee said...

Very cool! I grew up in a rather close knit neighborhood - we could leave the house at 8am and as long as we were home before dinner or bedtime, and checked in a few times through the day, my parents trusted we were safe and playing with the many other kids around the block. I love going for walks or riding my bike and knowing almost everyone i passed. I babysat for countless kids and many of the adults watched me grow up, too.

My hubby on the other hand, grew up on a quiet 20 acres in the woods. When we house hunted, we found a compromise...small town, semi-rural, 1 acre, but certainly no neighborhood.

We've gotten to know a few of our neighbors but several of those 'friends' have moved already and I really miss the neighborhood feeling.

Glad you enjoy where you live. I do love our home and yard, just wish we had more of a 'neighborhood' feel to it.

Laura said...

I'm either really hormonal today or turning into a big sap because this made my eyes water.
Lucky you( and the family) to have such an area.

Cheryl Lage said...

We are really lucky...and don't I know it. Amazingly, I managed to compose the whole post without identifying the ICater as "The Restaurant With the Nice Ladies" which is exactly what Darren and Sarah called it until their Daddy called them to the carpet on it! ;)

And you may be a bit hormonal... ;)

TONYA said...

What a fantastic neighborhood.

We are very lucky with ours too although people come and go here so often you really don't know who you are going to have living near you. Right now we are waiting for a new family to move in opposite us and we are praying that they 'fit in' with the rest of us.

Childsplayx2 said...

What a great story and a great testament to not only the kind folks at ICater but also to you for keeping that relationship alive and thriving.

Great idea for a post! Your kids will appreciate this some day.

Lizz @ Yes, and So is My Heart said...

Oh, that is so sweet. We lived in a smaller town not long ago, and I miss our neighborhood.

Threeundertwo said...

What a great place for the kids to have in their lives! They will always remember it.

cat said...

Like the old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. Great idea.

Bia said...

I'm hopping over from Laura's site (hey! second place in a spelling bee is great!) and I loved this post. When I was little I spent many, many summers with my Nonna in Italy, and thus experienced growing up in a neighborhood where everyone knew each other. I have some wonderful memories of the baker who always gave me a hot roll fresh from the oven and of the shopkeeper who always came out from around the counter to give me a hug.

What a wonderful experience for your children.

Today, we live in a nice neighborhood, but it does seem people move so often that it's hard to forge deep bonds...the house next to us has had three different owner in the last ten years.

Have a blessed day.

Tracy said...

What a great story!!! We live in a small town, too, and all of our regular spots are keeping a close eye on my belly. It will be interesting to see how those relationships develop/continue as we bring in babies. :)

The Burger Blog said...

That is a great story, reminds me that I need to take advantage of some of the smaller businesses in town instead of heading out to the chains....although they are soo much more convenient. You never know who you are going to meet.

Cheryl Lage said...

Hee hee! Some of the folks we'll talk about in the coming days/weeks ARE from big chains, too! To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, from there to here and here to there, nice people can be found everywhere! ;)