I had to say goodbye to my favorite neighbors last month and, in between the tears, I got to thinking about what it means to be a good neighbor today vs. when I was growing up.
In 1970 I was an energetic ten-year old who loved roaming the street with my siblings and friends. The doors to nearly every home on my block were always open. Mothers worked in those homes and they (mostly) enjoyed the interruption that a pack of kids provided. I loved particularly the woman who baked cinnamon rolls as heavy as bricks and the one who loved to sew but immediately left her machine to chat with us upon our arrival as if we were her contemporaries.
The neighborhood of my youth is a rare thing nowadays. (Hey, I’m pushing 60 years old and I think I’ve earned the right to use the word nowadays!) Seems to me the definition of a good neighbor today goes something like this: a good neighbor is one who doesn’t bother you, respects boundaries and keeps quiet. Of course, this is dependent upon where you live. I think you’re more likely to find satisfying relationships if you have young children and can bond over play-dates and carpools. But, those days are over for me and my husband and I never expected to have the good luck of becoming attached to someone on our block when we moved to Carmel.
Marietta and Frank’s former home is perched on a hill across the street from our home and it boasts expansive windows at the front. So, they could look down on us and see the daily comings and goings. It was quite easy for them to monitor things when we were on vacation. They saw the mail being delivered and they’d know if someone broke in and tried to take off with our t.v.
Our friendship began immediately with the kindness they offered before even knowing us. We moved into our house slowly and I took several loads of things in my car before the big moving trucks arrived. I made the trips solo as Tom was still employed and Natalie was in school and the drive was an easy hour and one half.
It never failed that shortly after I’d unloaded all of the boxes into my garage, I’d get a call from across the street.
“You are working so hard; don’t work so hard!” Marietta would advise in her rich Chilean accent. “Come eat a sandwich with us!”
I’d frequently receive invitations to take short vino or coffee breaks or to dine on superbly home cooked meals. It was like having a more perfect version of my mom living across the street and it was divine.
For five years, we celebrated birthdays and everyday occurrences like the sighting of a family of quail marching across the driveway or the first blooms of azaleas in both of our gardens. And a couple of days after the election of POTUS, we dined together to bond in our shared horror and grief about the state of our country.
Most recently, Marietta saw me regularly racing to my car decked out in my spandex on my way to Zone Fitness. She never missed the opportunity to provide praise and encouragement. One day I’d see her waving from her window, another day we’d meet in the middle of the street before getting into our cars to head our separate ways. She’d often say the same thing about my fitness goals that she said when I began my blog: Do whatever makes you happy!
I’ve been missing the chance meetings at the mailbox and the shouts out of car windows as we come and go. And, though, it’s not even fall yet, I’m already missing the annual delivery of freshly baked holiday fruit cake. Really, I’m missing the rare, warm and comforting feeling of knowing that there’s someone living so close by who cares so much.
Last week I learned to do a back squat. This was a new move for me and on the first try I lost my balance in the set-up and nearly knocked over my trainer! But three sets in, I had it down perfectly. I was impressed. Ninety-five pounds up….ninety five pounds down…I’m looking good in that mirror.
Did I say I was impressed with myself?! Nine months in and I’m amazed at what a 58-year-old woman can do when she sets her mind to it.
I’ve always considered myself to be an emotionally strong woman; now I’m physically strong, too. Let me just say that’s an amazing combination.
Let me introduce you to Amy. She’s wearing her Aunt Bessie’s tablecloth, and she’s so happy that I noticed just how magnificent it is!
I had an amazing sandwich at a tiny little neighborhood restaurant in Sacramento last week. Despite how very hungry I was when I walked through the door, the first thing I noticed was that dress and the woman who wore it so joyfully.
I never hesitate to compliment people…why should I…that’s my thinking. I see it…I like it…I say it! And, sometimes I am rewarded with a great story, as I was on this day.
“Excuse me,” I said as she hurriedly passed me. “But, I must tell you that I adore your dress.”
“Oh, it was once my aunt’s Christmas tablecloth and I inherited it!”
Well, that’s not something you hear everyday, I thought. But it helped explain the great happiness that I felt emanating from this woman. Her aunt saved the bright red, hand-embroidered cloth for just a single day each year. Her niece remembers it fondly.
“I wasn’t sure what to do with it,” she continued. “Then one day my friend offered to turn it into a dress so that I could enjoy it all year long.”
So, I flunked swimming lessons. That was over fifty years ago before the evolution of the positive parenting style. I couldn’t imagine that happening today….oh, I hope not. It probably would have been best if my mom had re-enrolled me after my initial failure. But, she never did and so I really can not say that I know how to swim.
But, nowadays I’m game for just about any activity my daughter suggests that will help us meet our fitness goals. And, so it was that I came to find myself enrolled in a water aerobics class taught by Mike, a twenty-something personal trainer, at the Cal Poly University campus swimming pool.
It really isn’t necessary to know how to swim to get a good work-out in the water. We used kick-boards and aquatic dumbbells and the wonderful resistance provided by the water. It was a tough work-out, but different from my regular cardio in one interesting way. I was often out of breath; I’m quite familiar with that sensation nowadays. But, I wasn’t hot and I wasn’t dripping sweat as I usually am. It felt as though my mind kept checking in with my body to try to figure out what was going on. Seems I’ve gotten used to sweating!
Today was so much fun, though, that I just might find the courage to re-enroll in swimming lessons. I didn’t know that I could enjoy a pool without a cabana boy and fruity cocktails as much as I did!
It’s not what you think…that was the setting for my morning spin class! It was fun! I’m visiting my daughter at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and this is a class she enjoys. The only thing better than making a commitment to strength and fitness is doing it with the support of the most important people in my life. We sat there, side by side, sweating it out for 45 minutes.
The instructor was a fabulously fit mature woman who yelled throughout, “Isn’t this a great way to start the day? Ready? Well, ready? If not now …when? We’re taking a ride through the hills. Increase tension! Are you uncomfortable yet?! Get uncomfortable!”
When I began working out, I also began reading about working out. One of my favorite quotes came from Jillian Michaels: “You’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable.” It’s a phrase that’s become my mantra. I turn it over in my mind all the time and it keeps me moving. So, it was great to hear her singing the same tune as me!
My trainer, Jonathan, is a bit less vocal than this woman. He generally tells me the exercises in the set and the count and leaves me to it, unless I need a correction to my form. (I do not need that very often, as I am fastidious about form!) He will occasionally throw in a “PUSH” or “PULL” and that usually elicits a slightly nasty look from me and sometimes a response: “I AM pushing or pulling!” He’ll sometimes say “looking good,” which is nice to hear. But, what I really love to hear is “You’re getting stronger!” I absolutely beam…I know it…when I hear those words!
As we descended the “last hill” in our morning ride and class came to an end, we were left with the following thoughts: “Feel proud of yourself. You chose to begin the day in a healthy way. And…NOW, DON’T GO OUT AND GRAB A SNICKER’S BAR!!!”
I hadn’t planned on a candy bar, but I will enjoy a glass of local wine with my dinner tonight. Cheers to health, well-being and my daughter, of course!