Over the past year we've lost two long-time neighbors. It bothers me. These were not close friends, but solid neighbors--the kind that will help you shovel snow, accept a package for you, let you know if you left the lights in your car on. Always willing to say hello. And really listen after they ask, "How's it going?"
In both cases they were renters. But their story in our neighborhood was nothing like the transient, uncaring picture that some like to paint of the Typical Renter. Both were families who lived here for years. Both supported their children and their school endeavors. Both cared for the outside of their homes.
In the case of Ms. A, we watched her little boys go from peddle cars and stick fights to middle school and high school. Her teenaged daughter moved from skin-tight jeans to professional clothing for a job with the school system, helping elementary children. Ms. A. herself went from single working mom to struggling with a physical disability--then suddenly met the man of her dreams and got married. We watched her family evolve and flourish.
But one day the original owner decided he wanted to sell, so they were given notice. And that was it. We watched them pack up and go. We didn't know them well enough to throw them a party, or ask for their new address. They were just gone.
Mr. B and his family were hip and energetic, upbeat. His son and daughter played out front, then moved to hanging out with friends on the stoop. It was clear that they had strict rules about not allowing friends in the house after school when the parents were at work. The dad helped the son save money to buy equipment for a dj-ing hobby that turned into a small business. The daughter had a yard sale to raise money to go on a school drama trip. Extended family showed up last spring to photograph the son and his date as they prepared to go to the prom.
But one day we noticed their landlord had stopped by to see them. And the next week again, the same thing. One day we woke up and they were gone. Vanished. A whole life: erased overnight, at least to us.
We don't really know what happened. But we know that these were solid neighbors that we liked, who didn't want to leave, and now they are gone. Not everyone has the financial wherewithal to buy a house, and so many things can rise up and change your life situation. When you are a renter with limited financial options you have less power, fewer choices.
I don't have a big conclusion to draw from this, nor do I have a soltution to the problem. Today I am interested only in the fact that they were Good Neighbors, and I miss them.