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Nēah ġebūr

Don't worry, I didn't know what that meant either. Then I journeyed from old English to new English and these words reincarnated as "neighbor". The roots are "near" plus "inhabitant". In a moment of joy or sadness, our neighbors are the first ones Tarun and I reach out to. In a crisis, they are the first ones to arrive. When Neil got married, they opened their homes to our family, invested their time to help us with major tasks, shielded us from things that didn't go as planned, and worried about our well-being. Before Josh got into med school, one of them said, "I want to be the first one to know." And indeed, she was.

We are rooted in different faiths cultures, and contexts, yet we speak the exact same language. The kids knew never to mess with any of us parents. They knew that we were watching them with hawk eyes regardless of their address. They understood that the consequences of falling off the rails brought the same level of wrath, just in different languages.

Here are the four goobers who provided the glue for deep and lasting friendships in our neighborhood. This picture was taken on the first day of kindergarten.

One of these cuties has three older brothers. He would hover in my kitchen at dinner time when chicken curry was on the menu. One night, I served him rice, dal, and chicken and he offered me this critique: "Next time don't put seeds in the dal." When he graduated from college, I asked him what he wanted and he said chicken curry. That night I cried. Our boys would wait for an invitation from his mom and hurry over without our permission because short ribs and steak got precedence over dithering Indian parents with chicken curry.

Once his older brother welcomed me back from a work trip with a bear hug. With a booming voice he asked, "Mrs. Sen, kamon acho?!" In Bengali! In a language he has no clue about, he asked me how I was, while my own family barely acknowledged my return. Thinking of this still makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Brother number three diligently cared for our house for a few beers each week and the oldest sibling interned with our company to learn an essential life skill - relational database.

Their father is a law enforcement consultant by day and comedian by night. When Tarun's mother took a spill in the garage and busted her head, he lay down on the concrete floor next to her and took charge of reassuring her while we called 911. Professionally he is a star, otherwise he is irreverent as hell and keeps us entertained. Their mother is superhuman. When her boys were little, she ran a retail business and was the captain of a tightly run ship. One time I knocked on her door for sugar and she came out looking all scruffy from replacing the floor tiles and the toilet in her bathroom - single-handedly and with manicured nails. She's made the drapes in her home, flawlessly entertains a hundred people, taught us to re-upholster our chairs and connected us to every vendor we have ever needed. She sets a goddess-level bar for the rest of us. I don't know what we would do without her.

Here is the quartet after high school graduation.

On the other side, we have crazy good cooks and my soul sister in the mother. She runs a digital marketing company while creating masterpieces in the kitchen. Like apricots with mascarpone cheese and pistachios and amazing meals she whips up after we arrive at her home. The Dad is a pastry chef par excellence. His coconut macaroons are to die for. He quit a career in tech to become a high school teacher. I wish I had his courage. Their kids have been life savers: caring for our dogs, being friends with Josh, and playing charades with us on New Year's eve. I know that I can run in through the backdoor of their neighbor to ask for help and they will drop what they are doing to be with us. Their oldest is Josh's age and loved to hang out with us when they were little, periodically asking where the "big boy" was, meaning Neil. And one of the siblings from that home once asked me, "Where is your daddy?" meaning Tarun.

Talking about New Year's eve, several of us don't venture out of the neighborhood for different reasons. That gives us a perfect occasion to get together, eat, drink, and play games until the ball drops. Ringing in the new year with these crazies has become a tradition for us because they have collectively given us a lifetime of happiness and humor.

Here are the spring break right before college graduation. Now that their milestones are unlikely to coincide, I will continue to document their journey at the start of each decade as long as I can.

As our children scatter in the four winds, Tarun and I say this to the lovable and adorable ġebūrsnēah us: Please don't ever move. If you do, you will find us hanging onto to the back of your moving truck so we can keep riding with you.

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