I could see the early parts of the eclipse from my living room window, and so I watched it for a while while I sewed my sweater together (not a Franken-sweater although somehow the two front panels of the cardigan are about an inch longer than the back panel. Luckily, this one calls for a decorative crocheted edge which I’m relying on to hide such things). When it was nearly at full eclipse, I stepped outside to watch.
All up and down my street there were people standing in their yards watching the eclipse. A couple of high school kids came out of a house across the street and went to get in their car, “hey! look at that!” one of them said. “Yeah, it’s an eclipse,” I heard my neighbor Mike, two doors up the street, tell them. “Cool.” We all hung out in our yards, watching the eclipse.
Its why I wanted to move to a small town. I love that we all kind of know one another. We get on one another’s nerves sometimes — I had the fence guy here yesterday because it’s become clear that my next door neighbor and I both need a little more privacy in order to get along. So come spring, Mike will return and build me a privacy fence to match the one on the other side of my lot. Good fences, as they say, make good neighbors (and I’m already dreaming of what I can plant along that sunny fenceline).
There’s a Very Old Man whose house we pass every morning on the way to the dog park. His Sweet Brown Dog always comes to the fence for a little love and so we stop, and pet the dog, and wave at the old man in his living room window. Just after Christmas, the Very Old Man disapeared, and I feared he’d died. One Sunday, walking the dog, I ran into his nice old-hippie next door neighbor who told me that no, he’d had a heart attack, but he was okay and they thought he’d be home in a couple of weeks. The neighbor told me she’d met the sister of the Very Old Man at the nursing home where he was recovering. Our grumpy old man had been raised in a tiny cabin in Mill Creek, in a family of ten kids. His parents died when he was only 16, and he’d stayed in that cabin and raised all those siblings. “I know he wanted to get married and have kids of his own,” the sister said. “But he stayed and raised all of us, so that never happened.” Last week, walking to the park I ran into the neighbor as she was carrying a plate of spaghetti and meatballs next door to the Very Old Man for his lunch and it was clear that she’s taking him a plate for lunch and for dinner every day because he’s very old and someone needs to make sure he eats. She didn’t make any kind of big deal of it, I only figured it out because she said Brown Dog is glad to see her twice a day because she knows she’ll get leftovers.
And that’s why I love living in a small town. Because we all watch the eclipse together. Because everyone watches out for the Very Old People on their blocks. Because the default position is that we’re all in this together, not locked away behind our three car garages in neighborhoods where no one walks, or talks to one another. We walk. We say hello. We pet the dog and wave to the old person in the window and ask the neighbor what happened. We learn one another’s stories.