Tarun and I were in the prime of our lives. Neil was in middle school. Josh was a toddler. We all had more hair and no grays. Y2K was looming and 9/11 had not yet altered us indelibly. That's when our delightful neighbors moved into the house next door.
With their four boys and our two we were just shy of a soccer team.
We watched over the youngest ones making full use of parental age and inertia - including clearing out our pantry of everything they loathed and selling the stash for a dollar a piece at a lemonade stand at the bottom of our driveway! Rest assured, retribution was swift even as we marveled at their entrepreneurial zeal.
When they were in high school, we knew the older ones were drinking in our basements and we were thankful they weren't driving. The kids would run over to the other house for meals because everything "over there" was so much better. And yes, the other parents were cool.
The next generation grew up, went to college, bought homes, got married and had children. The number of dogs and cars multiplied, and through it all, we remained in touch and picked up as if no time had passed in the gaps.
With time we became two soccer teams with one to spare.
When Neil got married, our neighbor and I masterminded a plan to do the flower arrangements ourselves. She took the responsibility to pickup the flowers from the wholesaler and arrange the vases. Catastrophe struck when the roses wilted overnight. In the morning, she went from florist to florist until she found the perfect replacement. Two days after the wedding when she shared the details with me, I was incredulous she hadn't told me before. She said I had enough on my plate and didn't need to be bothered about this. She redefined what responsibility and support mean.
She taught me to reupholster my chairs, shortened our drapes and had solutions and the supplies for every problem in our house. She has and will remain our go-to person for everything.
He is an accomplished law enforcement official and a self-proclaimed "crier" - bawls and makes everyone cry at poignant moments like graduations and weddings. On the rare occasion we can resist his tears, we roll our eyes at the drama. We created a base in Southern California at his insistence that there is no better weather elsewhere.
He comforted Tarun's mom when she fell in our garage, busted her head and bled profusely. While Tarun and I were on the phone with 911, the good neighbor lay down next to Tarun's mother, held her hand and gently reassured her everything was going to be alright. He instantly sealed a "forever" spot in our hearts.
In the pandemic isolation we missed seeing each other so much that we gathered in our lawns sitting in a circle six feet apart sipping beer and wine and talking about life, liberty, and the pursuit of weeds in the yard.
25 years after our story began, our beloved neighbors moved out last week.
We knew this day was coming and as much as I had threatened to hang onto their moving truck, the parting was inevitable. As we looked across the yard and saw the new neighbors moving in, the reality sunk in.
Not their car. Not them. Just a torn thread.
Then I reminded myself that after a quarter of a century there's no way that resilient thread will fray because somewhere along the way we went from being neighbors to being family. That's a gift that will keep giving. We will visit and spend time together more purposefully now than running into each other in the backyard. Memories won't be lost and new ones will keep forming.
With immense gratitude for the shared history, we look forward to continuing to grow our teams into a soccer league in the next 25 years!