Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Neighborly Cookies

This morning I asked the question, "Do people still bake cakes for new neighbors?"  While walking Katie to school this morning I noticed our new neighbors have a bumper sticker that says, "Well behaved women seldom make history." 
I felt a sudden urge to welcome them to the neighborhood.  It would be nice to have friends so close to home, but that's jumping the gun.  It would be nice to have neighbors that said, "hey" back to us when we say "hey" as I walk Katie to and from school.  Most people spend less than ten seconds outside going from their house to their car door, rushing off to their busy lives. 

I felt shy about baking strangers a cake.  It feels weird to me, having always lived in areas where it's just understood the grownups on the street don't talk to each other.  If you know anything about a family it's through the neighborhood kids' grapevine.  Plus, I'm just not naturally very good at approaching people I don't know and introducing myself.  

My niece had a great idea to bake them cookies instead of a cake.  Somehow cookies are less intrusive than cake.  More like, "Hi, we like your bumper stickers and we want to welcome you to the neighborhood and wave and smile at you from time to time" and less like, "Hi, we're annoying neighbors who are going to show up randomly at your door to pester you with our intense friendliness."

I was going to make what we call in our family Chocolate Chip Cowboy Cookies, which are basically oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but I didn't have quite enough chocolate chips for the whole batch, so I threw in some dried cranberries.  They're delicious.  I saved enough for Will, Katie, and me to enjoy too.

I felt less awkward walking over to their house to deliver the cookies than I initially expected.  Katie and I had actually met them earlier in the day as we were walking home from school as they pulled into their driveway.  We stopped and said hello, introduced ourselves, and I told them I like their bumper stickers and the wife said, "yeah we're kinda hippies" and we all laughed and then smiled and waved.  So I felt less dorky when it was time for us to walk the cookies across the street to them this evening.  

Katie and I held hands as we walked up to the door.  I knocked.  They both answered, smiling, and accepted the cookies graciously.  They seemed really happy that we made the effort.  

But then, just as I was about to say, "See ya later," the husband said, "More cookies!  The neighbors next door brought over some cookies too."

"Really?"  I said.  

I must have sounded shocked.  The wife immediately said, "But that's OK.  I'm a total cookie monster."  

We left them our gift, smiled, said our see-ya-laters and headed back down their driveway toward the sidewalk.

As Katie and I walked hand-in-hand back home, I looked around at all the houses, most of them with their air conditioners whirring, windows and doors shut tight and locked.  I don't know these people and for most of my life that has been perfectly fine with me.  But becoming a mother has changed me.  It has made me want to improve the community in which we are raising our child.  

One of the things that irks me about the suburban neighborhoods where I've lived most of my life is how aloof and distant the people seem.  But I never did anything about it.  I understand people like their privacy.  So do I.  Before Katie I didn't care about neighborliness. Now I do.  Not in the nosy I wonder what's going on over there kind of way, but in a hey let's know we're here for each other kind of way.  Despite my shyness, if I want to live in a place where neighbors care about each other then I must take the initiative.  Gandhi said we must be the change we wish to see in the world.  I'll start closer to home.  I must "be the change" I wish to see in my 'hood.  I must become the neighbor I wish I had.

I squeezed my girl's hand tight.  We looked both ways for cars and crossed the street.  It was time for dinner and then, of course, more cookies.