From the Editor's Desk: There is always a little light somewhere
By Liz Beavers
I read an article back during our first go-round with COVID that said the lockdown we were under at the time had had the unexpected side effect of making it easier for people to connect with their neighbors.
I don’t remember exactly what the article said because it was awhile back when I read it, but I remember that at the time the thought struck me as interesting … and brought back a flood of good memories.
The basic idea of the article was that, during the lockdown, people were staying home more and when the weather started to improve, they were spending more time working around their homes. I guess they began talking with their neighbors as they were all out gardening, painting or patching, and got to know them - perhaps some of them for the very first time.
As a person who grew up in a time when neighbors were truly neighbors, I found that kind of sad.
I lived in a duplex on South Main Street in Keyser until I was 13 years old. We had great neighbors who seemed more like family than friends. I lived next door to my best friend and her little brother. My first memory of her was us playing through the old wire fence between our yards before her little brother was even born. Their parents were my “second set” of parents and her grandmother, my “other” grandmother. I respected them and listened to them just as if they were my own parents.
We always spent time in each other’s homes enjoying the holidays, birthdays, and other fun occasions, and in the summers our parents would sit out on our front porches to cool off in the evenings (no one had air conditions back then), share some gossip and solve the world’s problems (which, I might add, seemed a heck of a lot simpler than today’s issues.)
There were no cell phones ringing or dinging, and when the street lights came on, we kids knew it was time to go in for the night. And if we didn’t go in when we were supposed to, one of our moms would come out on the porch and call the roll … and we knew we’d better get home NOW.
When I was 13, my family and I moved to Gilmore Street and became West Enders.
We actually lived in two different houses on Gilmore Street. The first one was another duplex which we rented from a lady who lived in the other side. Again, my mom and dad got into the evening porch routine with them on one side of the dividing bannister and the landlady on the other, and they shared many a story and perhaps some hopes and dreams sitting there on that quiet little dead-end street.
Meanwhile us kids played kickball in the street.
In the house on the other side of us was a couple and their young kids, and again, they became much more like family than friends. Being older, I became the “older sister” to their kids, and watched them grow into fine young adults. My mom became their adopted grandmother, and she watched and worried over them as they swam in their backyard pool as if they were her own.
When it came time for me to leave for college, my neighbor Ginny, knowing my mom would be distraught over my “big move,” came over to the house to try to cheer her up. Sometime later Ginny told me they both wound up reminiscing and crying around the kitchen table.
When my mom passed away, her “grandkids” had a special arrangement placed in her casket, and when I said my wedding vows years later, it was Ginny who filled in for my mom and lit the Unity Candle during the ceremony.
One house below that family was another family with whom we grew close, and when their mother died my mom became a surrogate of sorts who always had a welcoming smile and a motherly, listening ear when it was needed.
When a house down on the corner of the same block became available and my family had the opportunity to buy our very own home for the first time, it was those kids who pitched in and helped us move down the street.
Afterward, we had a cookout for everyone in our new back yard.
When I got married, my husband and I found a home in Westernport, and leaving those neighbors on Gilmore Street was a very difficult thing indeed.
Today, I still live in that home, and I have good neighbors on either side of me; people who I know would do anything they could to help if we were in need. And hopefully they know we would do the same.
My son and the neighbors’ son grew up together, fished and camped together, and have shared meals at each other’s grandparents’ homes. I have no doubt that they will remain best friends for life, no matter where life takes them over the years.
But there is a definite difference in “neighboring” back in my childhood days and now. Today, there is no front porch sitting, no gossiping, no hopes and dreams shared - not because they are not good neighbors, but simply because it is now a very different time that we live in and those cool evening porch sessions are a thing of the past.
People don’t have time to sit on front porches any more. Personally, when I get home from a 8-10 hour day at work, by the time I get something to eat and do a few things around the house, I’m ready to settle in with my dogs for some tv or a good book (although either one usually puts me to sleep before I can finish).
So if this COVID thing has helped some of us reconnect with our neighbors, at least that is one good thing that has come out of these trying times.
Even in the darkest of hours, there is always a little light somewhere!
Liz Beavers is managing editor of the News Tribune and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.