I haven’t been taking many photos lately, so thought I’d serve up some prose for a change. I’m sorry, it’s kind of long.
Recently, I watched a highly-rated Korean drama called Reply 1988. It wasn’t until almost the end of the series that it hit me: I’d experienced a lot of the same things. My husband was surprised that I didn’t notice. I guess I got caught up in the story? Anyway, the drama was about families who lived in the same neighborhood and how close they were.
In my experience, there were two families besides mine who did everything together. One family lived next door and the other was across the street. We went freely into one another’s houses. The mom next door (I’ll call her “B”) would just walk in our back door to announce an incoming storm or to bring beautiful gladiolas from her garden. Freshly baked goods too. (She made the absolute best cinnamon rolls.)
Our families spent nearly every holiday together. On the 4th of July the family across the street had a picnic. That mom (“R”) was a fabulous Italian cook who made the best pizza I’ve ever had. At Christmas she would invite all of us over for coffee and dessert. We had frequent picnics together and the food was always so good.
In addition to holidays, we celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. R made a beautiful cake for my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary.
The six adults had a weekly ritual that lasted for decades: every Saturday afternoon, usually around 3 p.m., they had coffee and dessert and great conversation. If it was at my house, I’d listen in. I learned so much from these convos because our neighbors were so decent, so honest and so kind. I knew I could count on them for anything.
One of my earliest memories is of going across the street and just sitting in the family room while R ironed and watched her favorite soap opera. I felt so safe there, so comforted. It sounds incredible, but every time R saw me, her face lit up with the most beautiful smile. Every. Single. Time. She gave the best hugs too. Whenever I got home from college I’d run over to R’s house and we’d spend hours talking about everything. I didn’t have the best relationship with my own mother, so this unconditional love meant a lot.
B was such a fun mom. She’d load all of us (she had four daughters who are still my friends) into her station wagon and regale us with funny stories. She was kind of the definition of “madcap,” but in the best possible way. We’d go to the pool or she’d drop us off at the movies. B was so generous and was up for anything.
Our family never used a taxi or airport shuttle. It was always one of the neighbors who volunteered, no matter what time of day. One time we landed in the middle of a blizzard and they still showed up. When we returned from vacations, someone from one of the families came running to greet us. I miss that.
R’s husband J took a lot of home movies. We had fun watching them because he’d put the projector in reverse making everybody walk backwards. We laughed at all the funny hairdos (Mom cut my bangs ridiculously short) and clothing. R is gone now, and so are B and her husband RT. It would be impossible to watch those home movies now without crying.
B’s husband RT was the quiet one in the group, but so intelligent and kind. He always teased me, but in the sweetest way, and always with a twinkle in his eye. A true gentleman, like my dad and J. It’s kind of funny, most kids wouldn’t want two extra sets of parents, but I loved having them. Only J is remaining, and we are still in touch, although he lives in another state. It is always good to hear his voice. [I’m so sad to write that J was put on hospice and passed away just last week. It’s almost like losing my parents again.]
J was very handsome (kind of a cross between Gregory Peck and Rock Hudson) and funny as all get-out. He was a great storyteller too. J had such a quiet dignity about him. He also teased me by calling me “Miss (my mom’s maiden name”) and I would say that’s not my name and he’d laugh. He was also one of the most generous men I’ve ever met.
When our relatives would visit they were always kind of astonished that we had that closeness with our neighbors. They didn’t have it, which surprised me. This was the norm for us.
It’s kind of extraordinary that three families got along so well. I never heard a harsh word from the parents, and I was friends with all the kids except the ones who were much younger. What’s really cool is that all of us “kids” (except my brother, who was too ill to travel) went on a cruise of the Eastern Caribbean. We had such a great time! I loved spending time with the younger ones who had become such wonderful people.
R’s son was closer to my age, so we hung out a lot. We never had a cross word, which is pretty cool. B’s daughter S has been a dear friend for decades. I could see her bedroom windows while I was at the kitchen sink washing dishes, and she would jump up and down so she could see me. (Her windows were pretty high up.) R’s daughter JN was developmentally disabled, but we had so much fun together. JN had a phenomenal memory and never missed a birthday or anniversary. I would meet R and JN in Las Vegas for a weekend and JN knew Las Vegas like the back of her hand. Sadly, JN passed away recently, but I’m thankful to have grown up with her.
Although we are now scattered around the country, we still stay in touch, and some of us traveled together in the pre-Pandemic days. I feel incredibly blessed to have grown up with such an amazing group of people.
Great weekend, everyone, and Happy New Year!