‘Tis the Season to Love My Neighbors: Part Three

Neighbor gifts

The first house I lingered…second house, nobody was home…the third house, I caught him at his mailbox….the fourth house was warm and responsive….the fifth house – they were just perplexed…the sixth house was conversational…the seventh house, I was interrupting, but they were still gracious.

Thus began my delivery of my “neighbor gifts.”  My two oldest children tagged along and each had her and his job.  My daughter was the gift-handing-out helper and my son was the doorbell helper, at least when he could reach it!  Beforehand, I psyched up the kids to get them ready to give out our presents.  I coached them to sing out “Merry Christmas” when the neighbor opened his or her door.  This worked only after my daughter warmed up to the experience and pulled her head away from its seemingly permanent spot of her cheek to my rear cheek.

Once we passed the first eight houses (number eight was another ding-dong reverberating through empty halls), we moved on to the other street on which our house resides.  It was upon crossing this threshold that I realized I had counted two less than what I needed to drop off at all the houses! Unbeknown to me, new neighbors had bought the house that was literally finished that week – and they were moving in that day.  I definitely couldn’t be passing out gifts to each house and not stop there; they could be watching me and seeing me pass their house with nothing just didn’t seem, for lack of a better word, “neighborly”.  I sweated my deficient planning as the kids skipped along to the next house.

Two sweet kids answered the door at number nine on our stop.  At the previous empty houses, I had left the baggies on their doorsteps.  At house number ten, I had just seen its occupants drive away and knew they weren’t home.  I have also blogged about getting to know this neighbor before and our long get-to-know-you.  I decided I would come back if I had enough.  The next house, eleven, scared my kids into number twelve’s yard; when my son pushed the doorbell a Labrador, who looked as if it was going to scratch the glass out of the windows when it jumped on them, ferociously barked – and I just decided not to leave anything there.  It probably set us back another few years into getting a dog, so we’re even.

I loved coming to house number twelve.  This is the house of my neighbor who has children at the same school for which I work.  My daughter and one of the children are in the same class.  The children answered the door, and you would have thought we were Santa to the little boy in my daughter’s class.  He was talking so fast about how happy he was to see Lexi and how much he wanted to come play outside with her, but couldn’t.  It definitely made the lingering too long at house number one, perplexed looks at number six, and the vicious dog at number eleven, all worth the entire experience.

We moved on to number thirteen, which I could tell was a dud from the street.  All the windows were dark, and so again, I cheated and said I would come back if I had enough left.  From the outside, number fourteen looked like at least four, licensed drivers were home, but no one answered – and I wondered if they were like me, who pretends that no one is home if I don’t want to answer the door.  My daughter was one step ahead of me and placed a gift at their door.  I didn’t want to confuse her more by implementing my “come back if we have enough” rules, and let it slide.   At house number fifteen we were greeted by a young woman who was friendly and thanked us for braving the neighborhood.  She had children, but didn’t say how old.  I’d guess they were really young.  We finally came upon the brand new neighbors.  The man was pulling out in his truck and had curiously eyed my gift basket, so I approached him at his car window.  It was really awkward, and I felt like a fool, but I welcomed him and his family to the neighborhood and we chatted about how quickly they had moved in to the home.  Even before its completion, they had a contract on the house.  I hope my gift giving might have cemented their love of our little neighborhood.

The next two houses didn’t answer, which helped because I was down to my last two gifts.  The last house was probably the most gregarious and loquacious.  She introduced herself, her soon-to-be husband, and her teenage daughter, who all came to the door.  We talked about how they had met my husband – no news flash here – and also wanted to get out around our streets and really get to know everyone.  By this time, my children were touching all of her Christmas decorations – which look amazing – and I was able to really open up and explain myself and my mission to my neighbors.  Warmly they congratulated me on getting outside and braving the houses with unknown entities behind locked doors.  They encouraged me to get out more, and thanked me for the gift before we departed.

What an experience! I completed my tour and was able to remember some names as well!  The best part was seeing how excited my kids were to complete our mission.  I think a “block-party” may be my next project once it really warms up and all our kids can be outside.  I’m excited for the future and what God will do through me as I reach out.

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A couple of days after, I received a package of Chex mix with a Christmas card from one of the houses where people weren’t home!

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‘Tis the Season to Love my Neighbors: Part Two

Ever since my first success at introducing myself to my neighbors, I’ve wanted to repeat that action tenfold. I have made the effort to reach out to others on our streets (we live on a corner), but haven’t made great strides in what I am now calling my “Neighbor Project” in conversations with my friends who have read my blog. With the Christmas season fast approaching, and our little neighborhood getting brighter and brighter with each addition of lights trimming roofs and blow-up Santas riding motorcycles, I have wanted to do something special for my neighbors that would definitely make me get outside and take more action.

Although I now know I must get out of the house, I tried to convince myself to do all sorts of things that didn’t actually involve me getting further than my mailbox. At one time in the last few months, I thought it would be a good idea to send our Christmas card to each neighbor. I persuaded my unconscious to agree that mailing out a card with random kids’ pictures on it that said their names and Seth and my name on it wouldn’t be creepy or anonymous. I even considered getting a picture of Seth and I from when we hadn’t had kids yet and Seth’s face wasn’t so red and my gut wasn’t so hang-y, then putting this picture in with our Christmas card. That way, I could reason, I wasn’t just sending a card with some kids’ faces on it. I was going to write a note about how much I hope to get to know them and then pay forty-five cents for each of the eighteen houses on our streets, so the mailman could take them from my mailbox, back to the post office, and then return them to my neighborhood…without me having to meet anyone! My introversion would win and I would be doing a good deed too!

But then I thought if I’m going to pay eight dollars and ten cents to mail something out to people that live RIGHT NEXT TO ME that I would be insane and not really be completing the purpose of my Neighbor Project.

Thus, the pfeffernussen. The pahfeffernewessan…a…what? Actually, you pronounce it “fef-er-noose-n”. Instead, I decided that I would use that eight dollars to buy some flour, sugar, milk, butter, and a slew of spicy ingredients that make up a heavenly cookie that my father made my sister, mother, and I at Christmastime each year. There are a variety of ways to make this cookie; it’s usually coin sized or smaller. When I made it a few years back, when I was teaching, my students always thought I was eating dog food because it was made that small. I fondly remember my dad once trying to speed up the process of making the ropes you have to roll out before cutting each tiny piece. The Play-Doh noodle-maker set seemed a perfectly quick way to make the ropes. After that Christmas, however, we didn’t ever use that Play-Doh toy again and instead went back to the old, annoyingly lethargic method of hand-rolling and slicing.

Once I realized that my card sending would not be the best method of meeting my neighbors, I set towards making my pfeffernussen. It is ready to go. I made these cute tags to explain that I wasn’t gifting dog food.

My art skills are quite limited...

My art skills are quite limited…

I’m going to also place a sticker on the back that has our names, but most importantly, I’m going to take them to my neighbors.  No joke, typing “take” just now gave me a mini-heart attack.  I know I’ve had success in the past, but just like anyone who freaks out when they take a test, past success doesn’t always mean I won’t sweat this one in front of me.

The good thing is that I’ll have my kids with me.  I plan on doing this sometime in the evening this week.  If my “here you go person I’ve never met, have a cookie from a stranger” goes south, I can at least count on my kids to say something too cute or funny and relieve some of the pressure.   Hopefully, they’ll run from each neighbor’s to the next.  Or maybe, I’ll meet a future friend.

I’m going to do this.  I’m going to do this.  Does saying it a million times in your head make it better?  I’m going to do this.  Wish me luck!