Thursday, March 25, 2010

Front Porches and Small Lots Build Community

As the warmer spring weather allows for more time spent outdoors on my front porch once again, I look forward to the daily interactions of my neighbors. As I stand on my porch and look toward the corner, I find myself peering onto a tunnel of porches extending out from each of my neighbor's homes. At times, when the weather beckons everyone outside, it can almost feel like we are all in each other's living rooms- kids running to and fro, the adults talking to one another from across the street or just next door. Sometimes we even have free entertainment when the family across the street throws their windows open wide and sings along to their karaoke machine. A parade of people walking their dogs just steps away on the sidewalk adds to the fun.

I have lived in this neighborhood just nine months and already I know most of the folks up and down the street. It is hard to not know them given how close we live together. We wave hello as we go out to get the mail, walk to town, or come home from an errand. Due to the closeness of our homes, I can even watch their televisions from the window of mine, or listen to their household conversations wafting through their open windows.

I lived in Illinois for five years and only really knew two of my neighbors- a friendly older man from across the street, and the mother of my son's friend. The rest of them I rarely saw, due to larger lot sizes and lack of front porches. Granted, I did see them peering out at me through the windows of their cars as they drove into and out of their attached garages. All my life I have been in search of distance away from neighbors and the privacy that comes with it. But something always seemed to be missing.

As I make myself at home in this tightly packed neighborhood, this place reminds me of the days long ago when neighbors hung out on the steet together talking, building community in the process. I feel fortunate to be a part of this neighborhood and to discover that this place feels right to me even though it doesn't involve large lots offering privacy. Now that I am here surrounded by lots of people, I am discovering that a sense of community is what has been missing in many of the places I've lived.


Jen said...

Love the porch! Our neighborhood is a lot like that. I totally agree with you on the sense of community. We know all of our neighbors. The only problem is that the house next door to us became a rental with an absentee landlord. It's tough to be that close to people who are a menace to the entire neighborhood but I still wouldn't trade it for our old gated community.

Wendy said...

What you describe is what I've (finally) found after a lifetime of looking. I've finally found a community, and I do know my neighbors. It's a very good feeling, even if they all think I'm a little ... odd with my clothesline and my chickens and my raised garden beds :).