Wednesday, September 29, 2010

For the Love of...

Slugging up my neighbors rickety steps to their suite located above our own, I was cursing the abysmal soundproofing between the floors in our 100 year old house. It was 6:00 in the morning, and apparently a herd of elephants had been let loose upstairs. One of the toughest parts of living in close quarters is learning to maintain peace with your neighbors. There is a part of me that wanted to knock on their door and shout, "For the love of God and your fellow man, shut-up!" However, my family and I have chosen this community we live in and we want to be friends with our neighbors. So I knocked on the door, the neighbors answered, and I very politely and apologetically told them they were being brutally loud and please, please, please don't wake up my baby.

 Their response was equally polite and apologetic,  sorry we're headed out for a hike.

Have a good trip (really I mean it).

My neighbors have seen me in my PJ's more times than I can count. Not always from complaining at their door in the wee hours of the morning but because of the common laundry room, entrance ways and large and potentially scandalous kitchen window.

The neighbors upstairs are not the only noise polluters, we are guilty too. Levi has the very bad habit of throwing his soothers overboard when he wants to get out of his crib in the morning. The soothers land with an obnoxious clatter on the laminate flooring. We are in dialogue with our neighbors about putting in carpet. Life would surely be easier if we lived in the suburbs, in our own place with reasonable distance between our neighbors. Instead we choose to live like a pack of sardines in the city. Why oh why?

I want to answer that question. There is something profoundly beautifully about learning to live with other people. And not necessarily people I would normally choose to be my friends. Living in community fosters respect, love and gives us a mirror in which to see our own flaws. I have learned to be more patient and understanding, rather than to simmer with annoyance and demand that people be more like me.

If my neighbors and I didn't get along we would also face some nasty problems. Example: Our toilet broke and couldn't be fixed right away. Personally, peeing in a bush is not an option. Thankfully, we could use the neighbors. Or one of the many times we have locked ourselves out of the house and needed to borrow the neighbor's ladder to climb through an open window. Another time my neighbor's car wouldn't start and we lent him ours for the day. We've also had some of our neighbors babysit, saving us from parental melt-down.

Sometimes at night Ben and I lie in our bed, the sound of lead footsteps over our head, the strum of a guitar down below, and loud but lovely Greek conversation next door, and we say to each other, "I love this neighborhood."

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