Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Our Neighbors

About half a block from where we live, there is a Mexican family.  We met them for the first time last summer, as we were on a walk with our new little babies.
A little boy, chasing a soccer ball down the street, did a double take and jogged back to look at our boys. "Twins?!" he yelled, "They're so cute! I love them!" and he ran off.
We laughed, because he was adorable and silly, as most 5 year-olds are.
We passed him again on our way home, sitting outside his house with his mother and sisters. He pulled on his mom's hand, speaking quickly to her in Spanish and brought her to the side of our stroller, wanting to show off his new twin-loves. She smiled embarrassedly at us, but Travis quickly began speaking to her and the kids in Spanish, and five minutes later we were all sitting on the blanket together, playing with each other's babies.
Diego was 5, Diana was 8 (or so, I believe) and they have a baby sister whose name I just can't figure out, only two months older than the boys.  They teased us about the boys' little bald heads, and (via her kids and Travis) the mother asked me about what they were eating, and how they were sleeping. She told me I was so skinny that she was jealous, and that she couldn't believe that I was breast feeding! When we left, she told me that she would love to babysit, if I ever needed a hand.
(Which, I mean, was nice and all... but we were complete strangers who didn't even speak the same language. I still wouldn't leave my boys home alone with my good friends, let alone someone I couldn't describe our elaborate routines to.)

We saw the family a dozen more times over the summer while we were out on walks.  Usually it was just Diana and Diego playing in the front yard, and I was almost always without Travis.  If their mother was in the yard or on the porch, she would come down and smile, and we might trade babies for a few minutes. She'd ask about Travis' work and I'd ask about the kids' school, all via Diana.  If Travis was along, then everyone would babble away in Spanish, leaving me completely helpless except for Diana, who remains the smartest and most polite 8 year old I've ever met, as she would repeat everything back to me.  "She says, they look so much like Travis. He says, he's jealous of all of my sister's curly hair."

Now that it's warm out again, we've seen the family several times over the last month.  The first time, Diana and her mother were sitting on the porch, while Diego kicked a soccer ball against the house.
"HEY!" he yelled, when he saw us, and Diana came running off the porch. "Micah and Grey!" she yelled.  We'd barely come to a stop before she was pulling them out of their stroller.
"Can they walk yet? Look at all their blond hair! They're so big. You look so pretty! Where's your husband?"
Their mother came down and asked if they were sleeping through the night and what solid foods they were eating.  When I told her that they still prefer a bottle and I can't get them to eat enough, she started listing off foods for me to try. "Enchiladas, quesadillas?" Diego laughed and said that his little sister ate everything, even rocks.
He read Micah's shirt, "Nothing but trouble?"
"Wow," I said, "You're a quick reader, Diego!"
"I'm the fastest reader in the first grade!" He was so proud.
They walked along with us for a little while, while my kids squealed and laughed at all the attention they were getting.

We saw them on a walk on Sunday, and I told them that I've been making the boys some Mexican food and it's their favorite thing to eat (truth.) and they laughed and listed off a bunch of things I've never heard of to feed them.
Their dad was on the front porch, and since we're usually walking by in the middle of the day, I'd never met him.
"That's my dad!" said Diego. The man smiled awkwardly at us, and waved a little. I used up the extent of my Spanish and said "Holla, como estas?"and he used what is probably most of his English by replying "Good, thank you."
Diana said, "I walked by your apartment and I remembered which one was yours, but you weren't outside." She hefted Micah up a bit higher on her hip.
"You can always stop and say hi," I tell her, and she beams.
"I will next time, I promise."

It's such a funny and interesting relationship that we have. As far as I know, I have nothing in common with this woman or her children. We don't hang out. We just stop and play for a few minutes when we pass by their house, or they pass by ours. We don't talk about anything in particular, and the kids can NEVER remember my name.  They always guess, "Stephanie? Jennifer? Alyssa?" (Very white girl names) and it took me all summer to remember Diego's name and I only figured out Diana's name in the last month.
And yet, I wish that I had more relationships like this relationship. We always smile and are kind to each other. Knowing that our neighbors are good and happy people makes me feel less worried about taking my boys out, or even letting them play outside by themselves (not yet, but in a few years).
It reminds me of the women that I met in Kenya and Uganda.  We were completely different. We feed our children different foods, we teach them different songs and games, and pray with them in different languages (and to different Gods and saints, in some cases), and yet, as Travis likes to say "Despite our many differences, we are more alike than we are different."

I love to pass and see our neighbors, because it reminds me that most people are good, even strangers.  And even people that we have nothing in common with can love us, and we can love them.

Do you have any neighbors or relationships like this? I'd love to hear about them!
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Bethany G said...

I really really loved this post. Your writing captured me! And you've brought up a point that I've never really put words to before.. beautiful post!

F as in Frank said...

I can't tell you how much I love this!