I remember the night they moved into the house next door.
I was only four, but the memory of meeting them that night stands out as one of the clearest from my early childhood. We quickly were introduced and we quickly became friends. For privacy, I won't mention their names, but they became more than just our next door neighbors, they pretty much became family.
Their oldest child was my age, and for every child that was born into our family after that, one was born into their family too. We played together nearly every day, and we played and fought like siblings. We owned a cat together, that we named Bobcat, and played with many litters of her kittens. The boy who was my age was my close friend, but also my rival. We competed over everything. He helped me to push myself to become a better person.
As the years passed, our families became inseparable. As our family grew larger, we ended up moving into a bigger house that still had an adjoining backyard. When we built a fence around it, my dad built a gate between our yards so that we could still have unlimited access to play with each other.
My childhood memories involve our neighbors nearly as much as my own family. I can't begin to express how much each and everyone of them blessed my life. I love talking to the father and mother of this family. They are still close friends and confidants of mine.
One time, in high school, there was a Valentine's Day Dance on my birthday. I wasn't really expecting to be asked, and so I'd already steeled myself to accept the fact that I was going to celebrate it at home with my family.
On the way home from school a few days later, the next door neighbor, who was my age, asked me if I wanted to go to the dance. I thought he was just speaking generally, so I responded, "No, I was just going to stay home and celebrate my birthday."
The next day, the institute secretary told me that she had heard a rumor that this boy had asked me on a date and I had turned him down. I thought it was hilarious. I had no idea how a rumor like that could have been started. So, when I saw the young man later, I walked up to him and said, "You wouldn't believe what I heard today! I heard that you asked me to the dance, and I turned you down."
Completely straight-faced, he turned to me and said, "You did."
After some explanation, we got the situation figured out. I discovered that he had meant, "Do you want to go to the dance with me?" I apologized and he offered to take me to the dance. I had a wonderful time.
He even gave me a birthday present, a small book light that I still carry in my purse.
I don't think I've every told him how much that date meant to me. It really made me feel loved, and is one of my more treasured high school memories.
After I graduated from high school, I was saddened to learn that these neighbors had moved out of town to a beautiful home on a farm. The block just hasn't been the same since they left. When I go home, it's like a part of my family is missing. However, sometimes I am still able to visit with them, and I cherish those moments that we can talk and reminisce.
As I've thought about what I want for my own family, I've realized that I want next door neighbors just like I had growing up. I want Kevin to have best friends next door that he can just run and play with and that I don't have to worry about.
I want for him to have what I did. We have wonderful neighbors now, but no one around us is exactly Kevin's age. Though he has wonderful friends in our neighborhood, and we are so grateful for them, it's not quite the same.
I was super blessed to grow up with the neighbors that we had. I know most people don't have the same experience that I did growing up, but it was one of the things that I loved about my childhood.
I want everyone to have friendly neighbors, and for me to be the kind of neighbor that I had. I want kids to feel free to come into my home whenever they want and hang out. I want people to know that if they need help, they can come and not feel bad about asking for it.
I want those kind of childhood memories to exist for Kevin. Hopefully, we can continue growing closer to our neighbors, so that we can foster those same kind of relationships.
That's one of the things that I really want for my children.