53: The First in the Neighborhood

53: The First in the Neighborhood

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

The First in the Neighborhood

Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.

~Bill Cosby

I saw the woman again when I looked out the kitchen window. She appeared to be around my age, and she was with the same little girl I’d seen her with on several occasions. They walked to their mailbox, and the woman helped the girl as she reached up on her tiptoes, opened the door and stuck her small hand in the box to pull out the mail. The woman smiled and stroked her daughter’s hair. I turned to look at my toddler son who played on the floor beside me as I washed the dishes.

He and I could both use a friend. I was born and raised in a small Midwestern town with friends and family surrounding me, and no need to reach out to meet anyone new. Jason’s friends were ready-made when he was born — children of my friends and former coworkers. But my husband’s job had recently relocated us a thousand miles away, and I had no idea how to begin to make the connections with other women that are so important when raising a child.

I had seen the woman across the street a number of times in the several months I had lived in this new home in a strange town. She looked like a person I could relate to, and she was my neighbor after all. If I could only get over the fear that gripped me when I thought about knocking on her door. I am an outgoing person and talk to people easily, but something about starting this first move towards making a friend in this new place paralyzed me.

One day after playing with my son all morning, I felt so strongly the need for us both to have someone near our own age to relate to. I picked Jason up and told him, “We’re going on a little visit.”

He looked confused — the past few months we spent all our days alone together until his father came home after work. I realized Jason had likely forgotten the time before our move, when family or friends dropped by with regularity. It was something I had not forgotten, and missed more than I could express.

Now that I had announced our intention to visit, there was no turning back. I locked our front door, walked across the street and knocked tentatively on the woman’s door. I secretly hoped no one was home or no one answered, so that I could tell myself I had given it a try.

I was about to turn away, but the door swung open. Standing in the doorway was the woman I had seen at the mailbox. The little girl had her arms wrapped around her mother’s leg, and she looked as scared as I felt.

“Hi, we’re your new neighbors from across the street,” I said, as I gestured at our house and Jason gave a little wave. “We’ve seen you outside — just thought we’d come over and say hello.”

“Well, hello,” the woman said. “I’m April and this is Katie. Come on in.” I was grateful for April’s genuine smile.

I set Jason down and Katie grabbed him by the hand as they ran off to play with her toys. I was left without the buffer that children give in such situations, and had no choice but to get to know April.

“Do you drink tea?” April asked as she led me towards her kitchen.

We settled in and began to compare notes. April had not been in the area long either, and had lived all her life in a city far away like me, so there was common ground. And of course we could talk about our children. I had forgotten how good it felt to compare notes on child rearing with other mothers. A couple of hours went by very quickly. Jason wasn’t ready to go when I told him it was time, so I knew he needed these moments with someone his own age as much as I did.

Before we left, April and I exchanged phone numbers. The simple fact that I now had someone to call if I had a question about the neighborhood or a problem during the day gave me a peaceful feeling.

“I enjoyed meeting you both,” April said as Katie smiled. “Let’s get together again soon,” she added.

“Next time it’s our turn, right Jason?” I replied as Jason nodded. “I’m sure Jason wants to show you his toys, Katie, and I have lots of tea to choose from.”

As we walked across the street Jason turned to wave at Katie several times. I smiled. The whole thing didn’t hurt after all, not a bit.

~Nancy Hatten

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