Good Neighbors

Dear Neighbor:

I know you are moving away soon. It has been good living next to you. Despite our proximity, it is embarrassing that we don’t really know each other very well. I must say I have enjoyed our casual hellos and occasional encounters near our mailboxes.

I guess in the good old days we would have gotten together for a farewell dinner, but we are living in the days of bowling alone and a parting ceremony seems oddly outdated, if not out-of-place for you and me, people who only know each other peripherally.

I have asked myself though, “Could we have become better neighbors?” Seems we were always so busy. Work, family and just our everyday chores kept us all occupied. We never had that perfect opportunity to properly introduce ourselves or strike up a heart-to-heart conversation or share a meal together. I know they say, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

I must confess, however, that there were those mischievous times when the notion of what if I demonstrated some neighborly gesture, invited you over for coffee, would you construe that as an act of intrusion or welcome that as a declaration of friendship.

I will never know since that was a hypothetical. The only exchange of notes in retrospect that broke our boundary for a while was when we had to negotiate the best way to deal with the noisy morning hours when neither your family or mine could rest peacefully because of new neighbors who moved on top of your apartment. We worked it out like good neighbors should.

These days neighbors’ spats seem more the norm. We have all read about those idyllic gated communities where people thought they were living amidst communal bliss, but only to discover that there was more contentions than charm. From afar these  neighborhoods offer us an imagined world of grand living, an amalgam of houses where happy people and wishful desires melt to form a perfect union of collectivism.

I have lived in a neighborhood before. That was long ago. Our neighbors on the right were Eleanor and Joe, and their adorable Pekingese dog, “Lady” who always had a happy bark for us. The Nessabaums were on our left, they were friendly enough, but it was their lovely white cat, “Noodle” who could not stop coming over our house because she simply enjoyed dining on sardines. Ah, those uncomplicated times.

Funny thing about neighborhoods. They can be anywhere. They can be big or small, rich or poor, but they share an uncanny similarity in that all neighborhoods make people feel a sense of belonging.

I don’t know where your next stop is; wherever it is, I wish you luck. My last abode was New York City. Before than Hong Kong. With each change of abode, I learned to be more adaptable, but not affable. Truth is, I don’t know how all this migration and this idea of global citizenship will ultimately impact on our sense of neighborhood. If everyone is always on the move, who will keep the neighborly feelings alive?

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