Besides cousins, my first friends growing up were the kids in our neighborhood. My parents’ requests to “get outside and play” forced me to see who else occupied the area beyond my backyard.
I had some temporary friends on our boulevard growing up in my preschool years, but when I saw that moving truck pull up in fourth grade, everything changed.
Our new neighbors had four kids. My family had four kids, about the same age as theirs. The oldest daughter was in fourth grade, just like me. She loved basketball and New Kids on the Block, but also had an affinity for country music (which she would eventually teach me to love). And she thought I was pretty cool to hang out with.
It was a match made in heaven.
If I wasn’t at home, I was probably at Becky’s house. We came in when the street lights went on, played in the rain, made friendship bracelets, walked to the nearby golf course snack shop, went to church together and talked with walkie-talkies outside our bedroom windows that faced each other. Our friendship was based on more than geographical convenience, but that’s how it started.
Today, I watch my daughter develop friendships with the other kids in our neighborhood. She’s the youngest on the block, but even though the children are slightly older, I see a little bit of my childhood neighborhood friendships coming through. I wonder if today’s neighborhood friendships will last a lifetime. Will the kids move away? Will they keep in touch?
Four years after Becky and her family moved next door, they were off to the white sandy beaches of Florida for her dad’s new job. I was devastated. As they pulled away, her dad reminded me, “Cherish this friendship. They don’t come along very often.”
He was right. Becky and I didn’t see each other that frequently over the next 20 years. This was before social media or smartphones, but we made some long distance calls and wrote letters from time to time. We visited each other a few times over the years, but our lives soon got so busy. We both went to college, had kids and started careers. Last year, when Becky asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, I didn’t hesitate. I was still part of her family.
That neighborhood friendship had lasted a lifetime.
It’s so easy to shut our doors, socialize via electronics and close ourselves off to the people in nearby houses, but regardless of our ages, neighbors can really make the best friends. I think of the friendship that has lasted almost 30 years with Becky and her family, and the friendships my daughter is forming with her neighborhood crew. I see pictures of Becky’s boys on Facebook as they play and laugh with the kids in their Florida neighborhood. I smile and think about the friendship that started with geography and withstood miles apart after all these years.
Jen Schneider is a local middle school teacher and mom to two children.