Welcome to the Neighborhood?

As an adult, I spent most of my life living in a typical modern American neighborhood. The kind where you nod, or occasionally wave, to your neighbors as you are pulling out of your driveway. I’ve never had that piece of Americana that enjoyed 4th of July block parties or Christmas cookie exchanges.

I was fine with this, but Brad is more colloquial. I’m happy knowing I had neighbors, but not knowing anything really personal about them. Brad would love to have every person he’s ever shook hands with come and have dinner, and stay for a week. He’s just that kind of person.

So when we moved here to Western Washington, to a country community, I was under the impression that it would be quite the same. After all, we live on 16 acres, and it’s a quarter mile just to get up the driveway to our house. So I knew we wouldn’t have any unannounced drop ins – no pamphlet-clutching religious zealots, no magazine subscription hawkers, no “can we come inside and clean your carpets, then later come and steal the family jewels” scam artists. We were off that proverbial beaten path.

Then, after a week, the doorbell rang. Neighbors bearing gifts. Gifts! A plate of apple crisp, made from apples out of their orchard. Sweets! I love sweets, so I instantly loved our neighbors.

The next day the second neighbors came over. Bearing fresh salmon, zucchini, and a basket of home grown tomatoes.

The third neighbors came over when we were gone, and left 2 dozen chocolate cupcakes on our front door.

My Momma raised me well. I knew I would have to reciprocate. So I whipped up several batches of muffins – zucchini, banana, pineapple coconut, carrot raisin. I brought my basket to the neighbors, to thank them for their kindness. And, dammit, they all went into their “back rooms” and came out with even MORE gifts for me. And asked us to “sit aspell.” Not quite being sure what “aspell” was, I sat, and the whole time planned my exit strategy.

.I went home and made a batch of mini crumb donuts. Worrying because my skills were limited, and  had over reached their limit. Brought those damn donuts down. I came back with more salmon, an onion braid (don’t even ask) an ivy plant, and a plaque that reads “Friends are the Flowers in the Garden of Life.”

It’s been nine months since we moved to Reluctant Farm. And we still keep getting “Welcome to the Neighborhood” gifts. Our neighbor will come up the drive on their riding lawnmowers to see if we need help with a project they can’t help noticing Brad struggling with ..

10952465_10204926641819506_1057459931516416274_n Yep, here’s neighbor Bob coming to see if he can help, and bringing me a batch of halibut from his last fishing trip.

I can’t possibly bake anything else. I don’t make stuff, I’m not a master gardener, and I actually have to ask people what I have growing in my yard.

So I thought, this week I’m doing it up good. It was Cinco de Mayo, and Washington, unlike California, does not pull all stops. They don’t celebrate. So I invited the neighborhood to my house for a little bit of Mexican heaven. I cooked all day, and wowed them with enchiladas, a taco bar, 4 kinds of salsa, a vat of guacamole, and a tube of sangria. And as a grand finale, pineapple coconut cupcakes.

They were amazed and impressed. And, come to find out, they had never been in my house before. After 20 years with the old neighbors, who were quite insular, they were over the moon that they actually had the chance to see inside the “house on the hill.” So “us kids” as they called us, were the novelties. We had come from Fiji – an island they only vaguely heard of. I was a born and bred New Yorker, an “Eye-talian” which is even more odd in these parts. I talk fast, I admit I don’t know nothin’ bout birthin’ nothin’, and I’m like a curious bird that nobody has seen before.

My veritable plethora of south-of-the-border culinary feats would surely save me from furtively trying to learn a new craft, or, dread the thought, ask my mother in law for some baking tips. Bev is very “homey” and when I first met her, knew that for the rest of my life, I would never have anything in common with her. She made her own soap, and mayonnaise. Something that both impresses and frightens me all at the same time.

But – as soon as the neighbors walked in the door, each had a gift. Something to hang on the wall, something to hang on the chicken coop and the highlight – a 5 foot high copper rooster weather vane.

I’m  thinking that maybe the old owners were not antisocial. Maybe they hid up at the house out of pure self preservation.

But … I kinda like it …

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