Home: Neighbors of Braumton Court, Friend #154: Carolyn

One of the best parts about spending an extended time at home is being here long enough to bump into and visit with my neighbors.  I grew up in a suburban subdivision with about 200 homes. My family has lived on our court of 15 houses my entire life.  We were one of the original owners who built these homes.  There are 4 of us left on our street.  Even after people move, the house still retains the name of the older families.  Next door will always be the Hong’s house, even though there have been two families who have lived there since and the Hongs have been long gone. (Would you believe that in the course of the trip, a FB friend posted about our visit, which resulted in a reconnection with one of the Hongs?!)  We have an epic sledding hill at the end of our court that was dubbed “King Kong Hill.”  We’ve had our share of bullies and birthday parties over the years, summertime marathons of Ghosts in the Graveyard or Capture the Flag, and caroling at Christmas time.

So I bring you a set of neighbor-inspired posts, based on a day I had last week spent with many of these and the visits I had with many others across the country.

One of my favorite things about neighbors is that we’re just around each other and don’t have to plan socializing.  It just happens because we’re in the same space.  I think my generation and those younger have lost the art of the visit, socializing for the sake of socializing without a plan or a coffee date, but because you bump into each other.  The other day, I had been out running errands and when I got back, I drove down the street to be able to grab the mail from the mailbox.  One of the neighbors was also at her mailbox, so we stopped and chatted for about a half hour.  That’s just what happens on our street.

About a week ago, I had an entire day of unplanned neighborliness.  Well, I guess the day started with a plan.  My across-the-street neighbor, Carolyn, suggested we go to “The Hill,” the Italian neighborhood (where Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up), so she could get some good sausage at an Italian market.  It was lovely.  Carolyn’s dad was a chef at The American Hotel in downtown St. Louis, which has since been torn down.  As the daughter of a chef, Carolyn was a foodie long before it was cool.  Every holiday, she would make my brother and me homemade chocolate pops.  I remember when I had a presentation to do on Austria in 7th grade, my mom and I tried to make a traditional Austrian 7-layer cake called a Dobos Torte.  It was an epic fail, leaning and falling with frosting that had the consistency of soup.  Carolyn to the rescue!  The cake we made with her help was exquisite.  And she loves doing it.

Carolyn is like a second mom to me.  She was our can-I-borrow-a-cup-of-sugar, I-locked-myself-out-of-the-house-can-you-let-me-in, I-left-my-lunch-at-home-can-you-bring-it, I-just-threw-up-at-school-and-mom’s-at-work-can-you-come-get-me neighbor.  In return, my brother and I would watch their cat while she and her husband George were traveling the globe.  My muscles know exactly how to bound down our 3 front steps, run across the street, leap over the sewer and through their front yard to their porch.  I could probably do it with my eyes closed.  I remember interviewing Carolyn for a project for elementary school about what she remembered about the end of World War II.  I would also put flowers on her doorstep every May Day, ring the doorbell, and run away.

Carolyn recently joined Facebook and posted on my wall asking when I was coming home for my dad’s wedding.  It was a little bit weird to me (I didn’t know that Carolyn knew how to post anything on Facebook), and so I dialed her number (which I’ve had memorized since those days of needing to call from elementary school). During this visit, I’ve seen Carolyn and George a lot.  When I left town for my grandma’s birthday, she called to make sure I’d gotten back because she didn’t see the lights on.  They had me over for dinner last night.  She came over to help me go through things in the house on Monday.  I saw her outside last week and went over to say hello.  She said, as she always does, “Do you want to come in and visit for a minute?”  We proceeded to sit on the back porch in the sunshine for a couple hours, and it was the first time in awhile that I felt myself relax.

George, who is 83, came out and sat with us in between passes through the yard with the lawn mower.  He is deliberate and kind and hard-working.  The two of them will celebrate their 50th anniversary in December, and I could just sit and watch them bicker all day long.  It’s the cutest thing.  Last night over dinner, together they told me of one of their trips through Europe back before the Berlin Wall fell.  They traded stories back and forth, and it’s amazing how acutely they remember the details.

There have been a lot of gifts that come with the stability of having a home in the same place for my entire life, not the least of which is being neighbors with, scratch that, being family with Carolyn and George.


One Response

  1. Possibly your best blog post so far.

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