As an adult, neighbors are always just people who live next door, and never more than that. They are not people I would call on or depend upon during times of need or anyone from whom I would borrow a cup of flour or container of milk. Typically, they are not friends. But it’s interesting how the neighbors I most clearly remember are those from my childhood. I wonder if that’s because as we grow older, childhood memories become more poignant or maybe as children, we tend to pay more attention to neighbors, in an attempt to compare our family dynamics to theirs—always in search of the norm. It could also be that as a budding writer, dramatic neighbors were more interesting to my young, creative mind.
While growing up in the suburbs of New York in the 1950s and 1960s, we had close-knit communities and spent far less time in our cars. Stores were within walking distance and friends frequently lived nearby. The neighbors I vividly remember from my childhood were those on the right side of my house. The father was a lawyer and the mother was a high school teacher. They had two sons, Jeffrey and Bruce. Their father worked long hours—I knew this because through the corner of my bedroom window I saw where he parked his dark blue Pontiac each evening, about the time I was getting ready for bed.
Their mother was a character who one day might find her way into one of my books. Although my mother wasn’t perfect, if I had a choice to choose a mother, in a heartbeat I would choose my own over this neighbor. After returning home on a typical school day, I scurried upstairs to my bedroom to do my homework and fill the pages of my diary while seated in my walk-in closet. The background buzz always included the neighbor mother Each day I would hear the mother yelling at the top of her lungs about this or that. Most often she was yelling at one of her sons, nagging them to do something. Many years later I learned that it was the younger son who she picked on and it was sad to learn that sometime during his young adulthood he committed suicide. There’s no doubt that the verbal abuse he encountered as a child, left him with some deep emotional issues.
Today, if you heard a neighbor yelling in that way, chances are you would report them to some child protection agency, but in those days those agencies did not exist, plus my mother would have told me to mind my own business. Today, it seems as if everyone is getting into everybody else’s business and sometimes for the wrong reasons, but reporting that neighbor would have been for all the right reasons.
For me neighbors provide a birds-eye view into what goes on behind the nation’s closed doors. They are not people who I would intentionally befriend, but prefer to just keep my distance and wave hello. Neighbors simply provide snippets of information and reality for me to ponder as I go about my day.
Causes Diana Raab Supports
Journaling, Writing for Healing, American Foundation For Suicide Prevention,