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.
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!