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Excitement buzzed outside my window this morning. It was Independence Day, its spirit given expression by masked neighbors standing around the lemonade stand. Upon it sat the blue cooler, cups, and the moneybox. No matter the oppressive heat and humidity. Soon to be eight-year-old Sloane, her brunette hair in a topknot, had initiated this gathering, supported by her parents, and it was well underway when I picked up their hilarity. Her brother Clark, barefoot and looking taller since last month, helped dispense the lemonade to the thirsty.

Toddlers milled circles around grandparents, hugged their thighs, then took off again; a dad sat in a folding chair stroking the tanned back of his daughter; Sloane made a sign affixed to a pole for passing motorists; a T-shirted mother pushed a stroller with her newborn, another curly-haired toddler at her side; other kids, in helmets, on scooters, stopped by—a whirligig of animation.

Covid threat or not, nothing could damper my neighbors’ enthusiasm. From behind colorful masks, laughter lifted spirits, released tension, deepened camaraderie—a much-needed tonic to ward off the pervading gloom.

It will pass, in time…

The sign is old, weather-worn, its letters somewhat faded, but again the invitation is extended:

 

 

No matter the overcast skies, the chill in the air—barricades close off the street to vehicular traffic, cloth-covered tables and folding chairs fill the cul-de-sac, and neighbors carrying hot and cold platters and bowls filled with choice recipes spill onto the sidewalk. Their steps suggest enthusiasm, camaraderie, and anticipation that new residents will join in on the fun around the brazier fire.

What’s unusual about this block party is its longevity. Established in 1973 by a handful of residents, intent upon creating a haven for their growing children, the annual gathering did just that. Within this ambiance they thrived, as well as countless others, in succeeding decades. Currently, ten children below the age of seven are blossoming; another attends high school and two in universities.

Such neighborliness has fused a tangible energy that still pulsates among the twenty-two brick bungalows that line Douglas Court. Like kaleidoscopes with ever-changing jeweled vistas, stories abound: babies, grandbabies, graduations, birthday and anniversary parties, holiday gatherings, diminishments, even deaths, each illumined by the waxing and waning of sun-years.

Such a privilege to have lived on Douglas Court for over twelve years! I’m so grateful—and there have been many signs.

 

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It happened again on our court, the second potluck since the beginning of 2015, this time to celebrate the onset of spring’s greening.

It was evening. Hesitant breezes carried moist-earth smells, cardinals chirruped, and patches of green engulfed lawns. Neighbors stepped lively carrying covered dishes, food warmers, and bottles as they stepped onto the porch of our host and hostess. “Do come in,” Bob exclaimed opening the screen door.

Inside, a warm aura of creamy yellows, honeyed woods, and burnished antiques enfolded us within a world of textured care. Forty-three years Bob and Candy have lived in this house; each room still carries the presence of the four children they have raised. Today their grandchildren play in the toy room.

In no time, the dining room, its table filled with treats, the living room, and the deck swelled with stories: Bob’s volunteer work at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, his wife’s practiced eye for antiques, another neighbor’s falls and need for physical therapy, the renovation plans of parents wanting to raise their toddlers on our court, the joy of another’s eight-month old grandson, the diminishment of a ninety-year old mother living with her daughter and husband, little ones pulling a train and scooting upon a plastic truck, the recent divorce of another¾even the story about the forty year-old-pin oak tree in the back yard.

So Spring continues greening the spirits of my neighbors, no matter the season. I’m grateful to live among them.

 

 

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