Michaela Merz

Street party

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I moved from the area ten years ago. There had been no reason to go back in the meantime. As far as the location was concerned, it was wonderfully quiet but off the beaten track. And therefore in the last ten years I have passed through probably only about half a dozen times. On a single occasion, more than five years ago I met my former neighbour in a shop.

Last Saturday there was a party there. It was advertised on sheets, which were displayed in the area. I would never have heard about it, unless my oldest daughter, informed by her childhood friends, who still live locally, had taken me with her. Not much had changed in the area. It was as if I had returned from a long vacation.

What had changed were the people. I recognised them immediately and although I have difficulty in remembering names (but this problem has accompanied me throughout my life) I could still easily match the old residents with their wife/husband and where they lived. Of the children, who had now grown up, I recognised only those, who had visited my children in our new home.

It was like throwing a stone into the water and 10 years later fishing it out. It has scarcely changed.

The only easily noticeable change was the appearance of the people. For some their hair was white or grey, the number and depth of the wrinkles had changed. Apart from that, everything has remained the same. Those who were then slim have remained slim, the fat also. With those, with whom I could then enjoy a good laugh, I also laughed again and those, who were then boring, have remained boring till this day.

I exchanged memories of the good old times with the direct neighbours and once again told the stories, which had touched us then. For example, how one Sunday my huge deep frieze gave up the ghost. The deep frieze was filled to the rim with home-made goodies, with portions of mother’s milk for my youngest new born son, with fruit and vegetables from the garden. I was saddened and desperate at losing so many hours work. Then it came to me that I could share them among my neighbours. I went from door to door and two hours long distributed my goods wherever there was room for them. The next week I bought a new deep frieze, but could no longer remember where I had deposited what. The neighbours came themselves, brought back what they had been storing, drank a coffee and one had a short chat. It was wonderful. Neighbourly help out of the textbook.

Or the time, when the neighbour’s sons held a party until the early hours and then the tiny garden of my terraced house was full of vomit and bottles. God, was I displeased, but puberty is a difficult age!! I waited a while and just before midday I dragged the neighbour’s boys out of their beds. I recommended them to clean up my garden as quickly as possible. They did so perfectly and ruefully. Our relationship grew stronger and there was never a repeat.

If it was noisy, one knocked and asked for quiet, but certainly never called the police. When there were conflicts, one talked with one another and always found a solution.

When I wanted to leave late at night, my former neighbour took me by the arm and said: “Come back again. You were the best neighbours I ever had.“ That made one feel good and was heart-warming and nice.

And it’s true, it is a super area, as far as the people are concerned. One talks with one another, helps each other, finds pragmatic solutions. That’s what I miss where I now live. Here one scarcely knows one another and, if it’s noisy shortly after 10 pm, the police are called immediately.

The street party was a great success and I went home reluctantly and with a heavy heart. But one can never throw the same stone into the same water.

Image source: Marco Barnebeck(Telemarco)  / pixelio.de

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