Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Our new neighborhood is close knit.  City houses are built close together, backyards are small, and the neighbors we've met are chatty.  They are more than happy to share Schwan's catalogs, tips on local dairy delivery, recommendations on the best butcher shop nearby, how to navigate on-street parking (we have a garage and carport in back, but right now the garage is full of boxes so one of us is parking on the street out front), and save-the-date for the annual block party (yes, it's that kind of neighborhood.)

On days when I'm feeling tired and snarky, that means that everyone is up in our business.

On days when I'm feeling social and friendly, that means that everyone is friendly and welcoming.

Our neighbor lady two doors down is the "Block Captain" (I am not kidding) and she frequently pops over or just shouts across the backyard to say hi.  The first day we visited the new house and carried a few things over, we'd barely gotten out of the car when we heard her call out, "Are you the new neighbors?"  I guess it's good to know she's keeping an eye on things in case anyone considered breaking and entering...  She's also the one who brought us cookies on moving day, and who knocked on the door this morning to tell me to move my car so I wouldn't get a ticket during the monthly street cleaning.  I am glad to have her looking out for us, although her aggressive friendliness takes some getting used to after years of living next to neighbors with whom our basic interaction was simply to wave from a distance.

I thought I would hate the intrusive neighbor thing, but I'm actually warming to it.  Maybe it's because it gives me a small-town vibe?  Anyway, while I expect that I won't always feel like chatting every time The Block Captain tries to strike up conversation, I think the benefit of having a friendly and close-knit neighborhood outweighs my occasional misanthropy.

This particular neighbor, The Block Captain, came over to visit a few nights ago.  The weather was nice so we were sitting outside.  The youngest of her sons (and only one still living at home) came with her--a nice kid who's going to be in high school next year.  We had a million things to do, but she settled on our patio furniture and obviously felt like chatting, so I did my best to be sociable.  David went inside to take a phone call from our realtor, so then it was the three of us (plus Zuzu) sitting on the patio.  We chatted about her son's plans for high school and my plans for the summer and watched Zuzu play with my car keys (I have started washing them because she loves them so much and they are such a gross toy).  Then The Block Captain asked me if we were going to have any more children.

It's one of those questions that is super nosy and not at all appropriate, but The Block Captain, bless her heart, doesn't have the boundaries that some people have.  The honest answer is that we don't know, so that's what I told her.

And then I took a deep breath and I told her about Eliza.

My social circles being what they are (relatively small and entrenched), it's been a while since I've had to tell someone new about Eliza.  I was able to do it without crying, and, to her credit, she responded exactly the way people should respond to that information.

She said she was sorry, she said that it must have been really difficult for us, she said that she was sorry again, she asked if we knew what happened.  She didn't say that it must have happened for a reason, and she acknowledged that it's something you never get over.

Then she told me that in addition to having four boys, she had seven miscarriages.  Most of them around 8 weeks, but one at 12 weeks.  She said that she especially grieved for that baby, but then she looked at me and said, "But your loss was different.  To have to bury your baby..."  She shook her head.  We all looked at Zuzu, crawling across the outdoor rug and we were silent for a few moments, thinking about the sister who isn't here.

And then my new neighbor looked up and said, "Did she look like Caroline?"

I can't tell you how touched I was by that inquiry, how much it meant to me that the conversation didn't just stop, but that she continued to ask questions that weren't specifically related to her death but were actually about Eliza as a person.  My eyes filled up with tears as I nodded my head, "Yes.  Yes she did."

The Block Captain might be a nosy neighbor, but I think she'll be a good one, too.


  1. I was definitely sighing as I was reading about the nice, but "involved" neighbor.

    We live across the street from The Smiths and obviously our entire neighborhood is like that with block parties and such. They all refer to one another by name and it's sort of entertaining to me. Because I remember none of their names... so bad that I have a card I write them on as soon as I learn a new one immediately so I don't forget. Because, gah! We're not moving like for many, many years!

    Anyway, I love that woman and I'm so glad she is your neighbor. Maybe annoying at times, but better to be kind, sociable & considerate that avoid. We have way too much of that going on.

  2. Love that question.
    Glad you have good neighbors.

  3. Wow. Just wow. You never know what reaction you'll get, do you? I think that's why I keep finding myself answering folks who ask if E2 is our first with, no, his big sister and big brother are in Heaven. Usually I'm met with an, "Oh, I'm so sorry," and/or, "I didn't mean to bring it up," both swiftly followed by a change in subject, but sometimes you get a gem. <3

  4. Good for her! What a relief to have someone respond so appropriately. It always gives me such faith in humanity when someone is so validating.

  5. That sounds like a great neighbor. I had a similar experience today with my property manager, where we talked about Cutu. And for the first time I didnt cry. It felt good to talk to someone who hadnt had a loss, but they understand.

    Friends of ours have a similar neighbor like yours. An old couple. They keep an eye on their kids. Know when the bus timings are and watch for them while the parents are at work. Also, they built a great deck for our friends!!! Cant beat that. I think its lucky to have watchful people around you, rather than self absorbed folks!!

  6. Oh, she touched my heart with that question. I love that she continued to ask about Eliza. As you daughter, as Caroline's sister... And not just as "a loss".

    I hope your neighborly relationship grows :)

  7. Sometimes, overly friendly, nosy, empathetic women without boundaries aren't all bad. Trust me on this one. Wink, wink. I kinda really love this post. I can't imagine why. Ahem.

  8. I am speechless.

    Your Block Captain is incredible. That is so thoughtful and kind. So kind. I wish my Block Captain was that good. When I came home with no baby after Ava died, my next door neighbour and Block Captain said to me "So where is your baby?"


  9. What a touching story! I love the idea of a close-knit community.

  10. Wow...what a thoughtful conversation that grew out of a brash question. It sounds like you've found a great neighborhood to call home!

  11. That story just made me smile. Exactly. She asked about Eliza as a person, and not just about her death, and that made all the difference.

  12. Love that this captain is awesome. :)

    We had the same type of neighbours in Toronto- I miss them desperately. They met Jack the day he came home, and were the first of the neighbours to know we had lost him when she came knocking and asking to see the baby and seeing me shake my head no. It will forever haunt me that I had to tell her, and that I was so raw and exhausted and red-eyed but for all the wrong reasons, ya know? :/ I'm sure she just saw me and assumed I was an exhausted mother.. I wish.

    Anyway, Those types of neighbours sound great. We had a nosy next door neighbour who kept track of licence plates he didn't recognize if they were frequently in the neighbourhood. He could tell me, to the minute, what time the UPS man delivered my purchases. ha. Crazy, but so safe at the same time.

    The other upside? You likely won't have to repeat the story- she'll let everyone know- and from the sounds of it, it will be well-said. :)

  13. Love it when people surprise you for the better! Your new neighborhood sounds wonderful! Ours is similar and I love it, although no one comes over quite that much. It's more we talk outside a lot.

    Hope you guys become more at home in your new neighborhood everyday!

  14. AND she makes cookies? She is a winner.

    This made my eyes tear up - just picturing it all. So glad that she asked about Eliza. And then some.

  15. I tend to prefer the wave hello and move on neighbors, but I think about how much safer it is for us and our kiddos to have trustworthy others helping and on the lookout. It's scary out there and it will be so nice that Caro has more people watching out for her well being.

    I love that your new neighbor asked such a normal and caring question about Eliza. And like Laura, I am glad that other neighbors will learn about Eliza through someone who recognizes her as your beloved daughter and C's sister. I wish this was the norm.

  16. Love that you got asked more about Eliza:)

  17. We didn't know our neighbors for a long time either and didn't really care to. I think neighbors become more important when you're raising kids. We ended up getting to know most of them right around the time Genevieve died, and they were very supportive. As Eleanor has gotten older and become eager to play with other kids, I'm so grateful to have them. Many of them have children around her age, and it's nice to know other people are looking out for her.

  18. I love how she responded to you! I'm glad you felt like you could share about Eliza....she is forever a part of your story!

  19. I guess I needed a reason to cry today and this was it. So glad that you were able to share Eliza and have someone looking out for your family. ~Missy

  20. We have a block captain, too- we call him 'the mayor'. Equally nosy, but equally thoughtful as well.

    You just never know where and when you are going to make meaningful connections to people. Her final question moved me to tears. I so wish more people were able to react with such sensitivity.

  21. Made me tear up. She's definitely one of the good ones.

  22. I love that she asked you that question. It's refreshing to encounter someone who can be this real, and it seems like a good sign for the future. Hope the unpacking is going well!