Let’s throw a party and invite all the people we don’t know
By Mark Rutledge
Saturday, November 2, 2019
My friend Scott has lived in the same huge apartment building just outside our nation’s capital for 11 years.
“You must know about everyone in the building by now,” I said during a recent visit.
“I don’t know any of them,” he said.
I was being sarcastic, of course. I would venture to guess that most people have lived within a stone’s throw of neighbors they wouldn’t recognize in the freezer aisle. This is especially true in large metropolitan areas.
By contrast, I live in the country — although it’s not nearly as rural as it used to be. When my father bought the little family farm in 1977, our second bathroom was anywhere outside the house.
The outdoor facility is hardly an option today. About 20 houses were built in front of the farm decades ago. And even the farm has four homes on it now.
I’m on a first-name basis with all of our family neighbors, but only a few of the others. Mom and Dad always got to know new neighbors quickly. Dad never exchanged pleasantries with a stranger more than once.
After nearly four years of being back around the farm, there are neighbors I still would not recognize in the grocery store.
I was mowing Mom’s grass one day this summer when a man pulled up and got out of his car looking for a dog. I asked the man how I could reach him in case the dog showed up.
He pointed to the house across the street.
Mom knows that neighbor well, but in all of our coming and going at a distance, I did not recognize him up close.
During 15 years at the same address in North Carolina, we came to know several of our closest neighbors, but never the couple who lived directly across the street for most of those years.
In our defense, they kept to themselves. They would leave for work together, come home together and otherwise seldom venture outside.
His name was Tom. We learned that from exchanging pleasantries at the mailbox. Theirs was right beside ours, and Tom always retrieved the mail and newspaper. T-Dubbya never got the mail. I think we might have learned her actual name after they had moved away, but all I can think of is T-Dubbya.
I started calling her TW for “Tom’s Wife,” and it just sort of caught on at our house. The kids would occasionally announce a rare sighting from the front window.
“Tom and T-Dubbya just came out of their house!” they would shout.
My dad would have never allowed his children to grow up believing that T-Dubbya is a traditional feminine name. He also never allowed neighbors to come and go without knowing his name.
Summer is gone, but a “get to know your neighbor” block party is definitely in order come spring. Nothing breaks the ice better than a big ol’ pig pickin’.
We’ll throw in a vegetable medley just in case. One or two of those back decks look like Tom and T-Dubbya’s. No grill.
Contact Mark Rutledge at firstname.lastname@example.org or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.