Monday, June 23, 2008

Ice Cream Social

I used to play tag with my neighborhood friends. Along with tag there was Mother May I, Freeze Tag, Hide and Seek, Snake in the Grass (one person would have to crawl around on the grass trying to tag people who would run--you could only use the small patch of land that was in your front yard--I don't know what you were thinking!). A few of my friends and I would gather all our books, label them, set up a table and some improvised shelving and run our own library right out of my front yard. And talent shows . . . we had plenty. My friend Wendy and I were typically the stars. We performed our own version of Flashdance and Fame. We were amazing. Really. We were (And deluded, but we'll save that for another story).

Our neighborhood was in the ghetto less affluent part of town, yet there was always something happening on my block. Yard sales and lemonade stands. Music blaring from teenagers' boom boxes. Mom's walking their babies, stopping at every other house to chat. Neighbors planting, weeding, and watering. Kids racing on everything from their Big Wheels to their ten speeds. When the street lights came on you would observe countless kids hightail it back home. Even with the children safely ensconced in their houses, there was still this buzz that hung in the air. And together with the low hum from the streetlights, it was like music that lasted through the night.

Now. I'm all grown up (relatively speaking) and living in my own neighborhood. It is a beautiful site. No doubt. The gently sloping hills lead from one drive to another. There are trees, looking as old as time, that drape the streets and provide and an endless canopy over each house. Each house is different, unlike my childhood cookie cutter neighborhood. Some are square and traditional while others are oddly angular and whimsical. However, it isn't just the houses that are different.

Outside of an occasional wave or nod, there is very little interaction. I've never been invited to a neighbor's party. I couldn't tell you the names of even a half dozen of our neighbors. We wave politely when we pass one another in our cars or on foot. We give a knowing smile when we see each other at the local stores. But, seldom a word is spoken.

I don't think anyone is being unfriendly or anti-social. I just think that over the last several years there has been very few opportunities for us to interact. I spoke with an elderly neighbor, one that has been around since the building of the first homes in the neighborhood, and he confessed that things had changed. People in our neighborhood used to meet all the time. There were block parties nearly every month during the summer. There were card games, play dates, friendly athletic rivalries (and even some not-so-friendly--but hey, exciting times nonetheless) . . . you name it. It was a neighborhood, with real bona fide neighbors that had grown into friends. He was saddened that over the years those traditions had fallen to the wayside.

This past Christmas I tried to build a bridge. Just a little one. After all, this is now J's neighborhood and I want him to have even a taste of what I had growing up in my childhood neighborhood. So, I baked cookies. I spent hours elbow deep in flour, sugar, and a variety of chips, flakes, nuts, and powders (I'm not much of a cook/chef/baker, but I can whip up some mean cookies). I bought cute little tins, filled them with coordinating tissue paper, gently placed the assortment of cookies inside, sprinkled in a few candies and headed out the door.

Maybe my cookies weren't so good. Maybe they were just in sugar shock after the super sweet holiday season. I didn't hear from my neighbors after said cookie delivery. It didn't produce the effect I wanted. Nods didn't turn into chats and waves didn't turn into play dates.

I tried again.

As soon as the ice started to melt, I packed up J, snuggled him in the stroller and headed out for a walk. I waved at neighbors. They waved back. I said good morning to a few walkers. They nodded. I complimented a neighbor on her blooming garden (this from someone who still has trouble distinguishing a weed from a real plant). She smiled.

I did this for weeks. I still do this. Hoping against hope that something other than the nod/smile/wave might occur.

I know what your thinking. Well, just start talking to them. Help them with their garden. Invite them over for coffee. Offer to baby sit. Buy them a car! The thought has crossed my mind.

But instead. I'm going to go all out and make one last attempt . . .

Ice cream.

I won a contest. Take a look . . .

An Edy's Ice Cream block party. Ice cream. The stuff happy souls of made of.

If this doesn't work, I don't know what will. Got a neighbor/neighborhood story to share? Any advice to yank some personality out of my 'hood?

This kid is ready for some serious neighborhood fun . . . and momma is running out of ideas.

53 comments:

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

If it doesn't work, you can resort to other childhood neighborhood tactics like -- flaming bags of dog poo on the front step. Ding Dong Ditch Em. egging, tee-peeing.

Just kidding. Sort Of.

I wonder if you will find when J gets a little older that it changes. Kids have a way of opening doors and hearts that we as adults felt were closed long ago. They aren't afraid of being shut down. They go head first into friendships and relationships.

KEEP BELIEVING

Kori said...

Boy oh boy, this is my favorite topic: lack of community, which is a huge part in the decline of our country, IMHO. Because we are all living isolated lives full of fear and busyness and just too much going on, and we have forgotten what it is like to have neighbors. I have four kids, and I have to disagree with angie; no, they haven't opened doors, not at all. They have friends, and their friends come over and vice versa, but they certainly do not draw the neighborhood into any kind of cohesive unit-and they are good kids, all of them. I remember the same things, and also remember that we might not even know some of the kids who showed up on the block to play, but we all still played-until the streetlights came on. Now, it just isn't the same, not even close. Keep trying, because I DO believe it is so important; if we get to know our nighbors, physically and metaphorically, we start giving a shit about what happens to them, and vice versa-and voila, a community is born. And if you were my neighbor, I would love the ice cream. :)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

The ice cream party is a great idea--my neighbor one won a couple of years ago and we had lots of fun. I grew up in a neighborhood like yours, and like you I wanted to recreate that for my kids.

One of my big successes is a pre-Halloween party. I have a potluck in my driveway so all the kiddies can eat something healthy and we take photos before we head out. I do a couple of simple games. It's great for people with different age kids, 'cause different Dads will take the different age groups. My kids all go on their own now, but we still love to see the little ones.

Serve alcohol at the ice cream party--it always helps!

Tracey said...

That is EXACTLY what I was going to suggest!!! Make sure that you put your phone number and ask for help or suggestions. Make the party long and easy to attend. And GOOD LUCK!! You sound like you are trying your hardest.

Pam said...

Good for you! I'm glad you are trying. I wish I had a neighborhood like you shared from your childhood. I want my kids to have lots of friends to play with and to feel that connection. Sadly - at least right now- my neighbors are all in their 80's and there are no young kids around. I didn't have it when I was growing up either. We lived on the outskirts of town and their were neighbor kids, but not many. They were all boys and older (and not nice older boys and not the tempting bad boy either- just yukky boys).

Burgh Baby's Mom said...

I think I might live in the snobbiest neighborhood ever. Everyone is friendly, but I doubt anybody could name five of their neighbors. Lots of waving and smiling, but no real relationships. If you manage to pull off a successful ice cream shebang, I'll be VERY impressed!

Pregnantly Plump said...

That's so cool about the ice cream party! I hope it works and you're able to get to know your neighbors.
Our current neighborhood is a really old one, with lots of young families. There are some real go-getter moms who started a mom's group, and I'm throwing my first playdate this week. So far only 3 people are coming, but I'm hoping to get to know those folks better.

Lori said...

grrr stupid errors! ok lets try again

I like the idea of the ice cream party... I hope it works for you

Danielle said...

Wow! That is awesome that you won. I really hope your neighbors come together. You seem like such a nice neighbor. Let us know how it turns out!

gina said...

My (older)kids and my niece are outside with the neighbor kids right now playing "manhunt"! The social sounds like fun- throw out some sidewalk chalk to get kids to stick around and viola! Hope it works for ya!

noble pig said...

When I lived in Southern California I never knew my neighbors. In Northern Calif. I know everyone, I guess it just depends where you are.

Tranny Head said...

Man . . . I wish I lived without neighbors! That crazy cat lady Mrs. Kravitz across the hall is making me utterly deranged . .. . between her freaky wig collection and her sifting through my laundry? I am envious of your situation!

Life As I Know It said...

Keep trying! My neighborhood growing up was very similar to what you described- all the kids out playing tag and running bases until we were called home for dinner.
We got lucky. We moved into a very friendly neighborhood with kids all about the same age as my kids.
Keep trying...it's so nice when there is a sense of community. Halloween is a great time to get to know people.
Good luck!

tommie said...

That is the kind of neighborhood we have been lucky enough to live in several times over the last few moves. It does make life so much more fun....also able to scope out the good babysitters!

I hope the ice cream party works.

We did 'muffin Monday'....shared home made muffins with the neighbors. Don't you know they were all missing us when we left last month!

Nap Warden said...

First, I have to say...I love that you named your TV Charlie!

I also love the idea of an ice cream social:)

anglophilefootballfanatic.com said...

That is wonderful that you are trying so hard. And, you won a contest! That will so make the block pary. Good job. We only know the people across the street on our six house cul-de-sac, so I totally understand. Oh, and fyi, my link on your sidebar is the old site.

Bunchy said...

Ooooh, fun!! I wanna come!! I've always wanted to have a block party but all my neighbors just think I'm crazy. Oh well. Good luck!!

Kristen said...

Oh Laskigal, I am so impressed that you won an ice cream social for your neighborhood!!! Wooohooooo, do you have any homes for sale in your neighborhood. Maybe we could move in, J and you could come over, and we would talk when we saw each other out! :)

But, I have to say we actually recently moved in to "Pleasantville". When we moved here we almost didn't know how to take how friendly everyone is.

I am hoping after a large helping of the free ice cream they will think you are the hostess with the mostess! Fingers crossed for a friendly neighborhood coming your way soon. :)

Sandy C. said...

Good heavens woman! Cookies? Babysitting? If I could move, I'd be your neighbor :)

Ice cream party sounds great!

jakelliesmom said...

Another of my friends won the ice cream party, too.

My neighborhood has potential, but most folks are retired and we have little ones. Maybe one day ...

CC said...

Hope it works!!!!! I brought all the neighbors pumpkin bread the 1st few years I lived on the block. It worked for 2 of them. The other ones STILL (after 6 years) look at me like "who the heck are you??"

My friends have a monthly "soup night" in which they invite all the neighbors to their home for a potluck. Wow. It's amazing and inspiring!

Kami said...

Our neighborhood is the same. I am kinda weird though because I like it that way...

But the whole idea of what you describe sounds wonderful, hope it all works out for you :-)

The Girl Next Door said...

I grew up like you, yet Our neighborhood used to be like yours, despite the fact that the Ex's parents lived next door for 30+years and knew everyone. Then us "Kids" started moving in. And having theme parties. The N's have the annual "wine & dine" in November where you bring a wine and a dish to match; the K's have the christmas party, the swedes have the "Glogg" party in January, We (um I, now) have the Spanish Tapas party in late winter or spring, and Blair has the big summer BBQ. Others toss in happy hours. And we have managed to become a "neighborhood." Not quite like where I grew up, but there are kids out and we do help each other with chores. Best of luck on the Ice Cream social - I hope it breaks the ice finally!!

Kellan said...

I loved the neighborhood I grew up in too - we played all those games you listed - such fun! It's not like that in our neighborhood now either, but I do encourage the kids to invite their friends over and they all do and the kids love to come here - we always have a house full of kids and I have even become friends with some of their parents. Some of it will come with your child growing older - the friendships and friends for your little one - once school progresses - believe me!!

Have a good Tuesday - see you - Kellan

Wendi said...

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...won't you be...won't you be....won't you be...MY NEIGHBOR?

(sorry Mr. Rogers just won't get out of my head since reading your post)

I agree. Neighborhoods just aren't the same. That being said... I do have wonderful neighbors myself.

How cool is it that you won an Ice Cream Party?

If Ice Cream won't win 'em over... you may need to move to a different neighborhood.

Sass E-mum said...

Good on you for trying. Don't expect to turn them around over night. Sounds like you'll have to keep persevering with them.

April said...

I loved my neighborhood, growing up. It was friendly and fun and everyone knew everyone. Things have definitely changed. I've lived in my house for three years adn we're definitely friendly with our neighbors. We know their names, their family members, what they like to plant in their garden each spring. But (other than our neighbor Brian who is our age and now one of our great friends) we have never hung out with any of them. Now you have kinda inspired me to want to try to throw a neighborhood party of some sort!

Lori said...

I have the opposite problem. We can't go into our front yard without getting stuck out there by a neighbor "visiting". One has even followed me around while I weed-eat! ha! Seriously, I have great neighbors though...and it all started by just talking while working in the yard. Good luck! The ice cream should get some conversations going!

Lisa said...

We moved into our house over Thanksgiving a year and a half ago. Our neighborhood sounds very similar to yours in many ways. Many "original" home owners, with some young families and families with teenagers thrown into the mix. We got a wave here & there, but never really saw anyone. And then summer came along. Our next door neighbors, who are 80 and 81 and still manage their big ole' 2-story, have cocktail hour every night on their front porch. Anyone is welcome to bring over a drink (a pop, a beer, whatever) and sit & talk. It's known that mowing doesn't happen between 5-6. And it's GREAT! My little Lulu will walk on over to see if Mr. Greg & Miss Joan are out, and she gets her sippy cup to go to the stoop.

I love your heart and your determination to make a neighborhood for your little J. I hope that the ice cream will sweeten everyone up!

Are there any other young moms? Maybe invite them over for a brunch/playdate? Just an idea!

Tiaras & Tantrums said...

Oh Man I hear you on this one!
We have lived in our house for almost 8 years - I DON'T KNOW ANYONE!!!!!!!!!!! I try to speak with our direct neighbor, but she wants no part of it. No one has children, this street is a ghost street - the weirdest street on the planet I say. But maybe not so much I guess!! I just feel so bad for my children, there is NO one for them to play with. We go to a park, deserted!!!!!!!

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

I grew up in a neighborhood like you, though I don't remember the parents getting together nearly as much as us kids did. Some of my fave memories are of summer nights playing kick the can or whatever. And winter days filled with sledding at the park across the street.
We have finally moved into a neighborhood with some other children for our boys to play with. They have made terrific friends here.
And the whole cul-de-sac knows them, and by extension they know who we are. WE don't all get together, but we look out for one another. Our immediate neighbors have 2 boys my big boy's ages and are super friendly. We get together sometimes on summer evenings for beer and firepits. We know that if our kids ever need a safe place to go, we can rely on one another.
I think it is wonderful that you are reaching out, but I think Angie is right as well. When J is bigger, he will probably make his own inroads.
I say keep trying!

Marmarbug said...

Its sad really. Neighborhoods just aren't the way they used to be. I hope your idea works!!!

Elizabeth said...

hey...send me your email, mine is e.by@hotmail.com.

you mentioned starting a writer's group...I think you & I should consider that!

email me & I'll let you know what my ideas are and maybe we can collaberate (did I spell that correctly?) ;-)

MoziEsmé said...

Times have changed! We prefer to socialize on the computer rather than in person - and then we have no time to communicate in person. Not good, but it seems to be the way it is.

If ice cream doesn't do it, I don't know what would!

Keep walking - that's what worked for us . . . I'm sure you'll discover a few people who would welcome some social interaction. I met a neighbor who was recovering from a back injury that left him paralyzed for a few months - he walked every day - very slowly. And our back neighbor was undergoing cancer treatments - she couldn't come to visit us, but loved to have us visit her.

Stella said...

The ice cream party sounds AWESOME!

Our neighborhood is well...weird. We used to be friends with our neighbors directly next door. We are no longer.

Everyone on the block is nice but many of them don't seem to want to interact outside of a hello or conversation. Maybe it's just me.

Keep trying!
I organized a block party last summer that everyone seemed to love. I didn't do it this year. We're not having one, it appears.
Oh well!

Amy said...

You are on the right track. I know you read my little story on Ordinary Art and hurt for me, but I have to say that the only reason I was hurt by my neighbors recent decision is because for 4 years we have been friends. The children next door knocked on my door and asked if my 5 month old baby could come out and play weeks after we first moved in. We live in a wonderful friendly neighborhood, much like your childhood experiences.

Great neighborhoods start with great neighbors who are not afraid of rejection, who keep trying to connect. I admire you for what you are doing.

I hope the ice cream social is the event that brings you all together. Good Luck!

Are You Serious! said...

♡ Congrats on the contest! :)

ConverseMomma said...

I love this. Okay, so you really write too, ya know. I can see you elbows deep. Great image. It seems we are both struggling to make a human connection. You need to e-mail me kd7200@optonline.net I see some great conversation coming out of it. Seriously, don't make me bribe you with sweets ;)

MamaGeek said...

If the ice cream social doesn't work, may I suggest a wine social. :)

I feel ya on getting to know the neighbors, ours rotate so much it's hard to get to know anybody well.

Veggie Mom said...

You know what would go great with that Ice Cream Social? Pop'rs, a unique seasoning that goes with just about any kind of food. Life just gets better with Pop'rs in the equation. We're having a giveaway, so please check us out at http://poprs.blogspot.com/2008/06/giveaway-tuesday.html

Eve Grey said...

I think people are so over-booked now with work & esp. with their kids homework & activities they are just too tired when they get home. Having said that, I think an open hosue BBQ or at Christmas-time is a great opportunity to meet neighbours.
I finally know most of my neighbours after a couple of years. Just being outside with the kids all the time & they are with theirs, there is nothing else to do except strike up a convo!

Beth from the Funny Farm said...

Lack of a neighborhood is HUGE in our neighborhood. Like you, I feel like I have TRIED MYSELF TO DEATH..

Good luck! I moved two of my best friends into the area. LOL Solved that problem!

Karen MEG said...

I am so impressed with how hard you are trying, and honestly, if ICE CREAM doesn't do it, after cookies... very tough nuts to crack! You are so sweet!

When we moved into our neighbourhood we lamented a bit that there was no sense of community in our neck of suburbia. We had a baby, but there were no kids on the street from what we could see, and certainly no babies!

But we figured, and it did happen, that we would get to know some of the families once the kids started school. Now some of my son's best friends live right around the corner - one of the reasons that we are adamant that we keep the kids in the local neighbourhood school rather than be bused who knows where.

I wish I were in your neighbourhood... cookies and ice cream, my FAVES!!! Good luck with the party!

Robyn said...

That Sounds like a lot of fun.
I know how you feel, we've lived in our house for 5 years and we really only know our next door neighbors and I think that is because we share a drive way. Though the newer neighbors across the street seem to try to get to know people when they can. I hate that we have become either too busy, too afraid, or too lazy to get to know anyone anymore. I grew up similar to you.

Elaine A. said...

We are pretty lucky in our neighborhood that we know several people on our street (many go to our church that is close). However, I have thought of trying to get a block party together to get to know more people.

My Daddy always says it's because people used to hang out in their front yards and now they hang out in their backyards, thus not having the same opportunity to form the community of relationships that they used to.

As far as your locals go, well... if ice cream doesn't work then I am going to have to suggest you move. I mean really people!!

Colleen said...

I had the same kind of neighborhood as you growing up. No one had much, but all the kids would play Star Wars together (um, since there were only 2 girls, we both got to be Leah), we'd go to each other's houses and each of the neighborhood moms had slapping rights on everyone else's kids (sure kept all of us in line if we knew Mrs. so-and-so had permission to smack us or send us home for misbehaving in her home/yard).
When Justin and I first moved into our townhouse, we had a nice little community on our street because nearly all of us moved in within a few short months of each other because it was a new development. Out of the 12 or so houses, only 3 didn't participate or chat amiably with each other. When we got hit with over 2 feet of snow several years ago, all of us got out there with our shovels and dug each other's cars out, and since Justin had the only 4x4 on the block, he made a quick run to the store for anyone who needed something like milk or whatnot (VA closed the roads for 2 days with that snowfall).
We have now lived in our single family house as long as we lived in our townhouse and we still barely know our neighbors. We smile and wave at them, and occassionally chat with one couple a few doors down, but otherwise nothing. The people who shared the same private drive as us barely spoke to us in the three years we shared the same driveway before they moved last month. I tried to introduce myself when we first moved in, but the wife feigned ignorance of the English language. I found out better when a delivery of ours was sent to them in our absence...she again said "que?" when I introduced myself and held out my hand to shake. So I sighed and asked in over-enunciated English "did our package come here?" The dang woman said, "oh yeah..one minute" while she went and got it. Then had the nerve to smile as she handed it to me. I grumbled a barely audible "thank you" as I walked away.
I hope your Ice Cream Social works...like someone else said, leave it kind of long so that people can come and go easier and hopefully folks will warm up over cool ice cream. :)

Kimmylyn said...

UGH.. this is so my neighborhood. Drives me crazy.. I actually just stopped trying.. I had to, it was almost embarassing. I am hoping once I hit the bus stop that it changes ..

That is awesome that you won a contest though.. let us know how it turned out!!

Don Mills Diva said...

Oh my goodness that has GOT to work. I feel just a little sad that you're having to work so hard at this - wish you lived in my neighborhood!

abby p said...

That is very cool of you! I don't know if I would have gone to all that trouble. Especially if I didn't even receive a THANKS for the cookies!

I hope it works out!

Let me know if you need some support--I'd be glad to come.

Lindsey said...

Remember me? I'm about to move to a new neighborhood. Know why I'm so sad to leave this neighborhood. Well I do love my house, but I love, love, love my neighbors. 2 of which are like super good friends. I don't know how it all started but I've so enjoyed the last 5 years here. *trying not to cry*! I guess I will make new friends. I hope. You scared me a little with this story. HA!

The ice cream should def win people over and if not, to h*ll with them. Bring your ice cream to Alabama. You've already won me over!

Denise said...

I have a Canon Digital Rebel SLR and I love it. It automatically sets the focus and shutter speed, so you don't have to know a lot about it. Unlike the Nikon, which is a great camera but you MUST know some scoop to operate it.

RJTrue said...

Oh the days in the ghetto ... see you there Friday :)

Jennifer said...

How sad! Hope the ice cream breaks the thick ice!

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