My neighbor lives directly across the street and our houses stare at each other. That is, I can look out the front window to see her house and she can do the same to see my house. For the several years that we have been neighbors, there wasn’t much communication. She was a bit of a mystery, but we always waved at each other coming or going.
Recently, I found out that she had hurt her back when she fell in her garage. I decided that I should call and check on her. She was having to spend a lot of time in bed to rest, but she assured me that she would be alright. She wanted me to know what a “tough old lady” she is. Instead of asking permission to bring her food, I just insisted and told her that I would be bringing her dinner one night. She objected a little just because she such a fiercely independent lady. Or, so I thought.
The evening that I took her dinner, it occurred to me that I had never been inside her house. She still had her pajamas on. She had gotten out of bed to greet me at the door. We talked in her kitchen just long enough for me to show her the food and for her to show me the assortment of medication she was taking for her injured back. These precious few minutes were just enough to break the ice. She wanted to talk. She wanted a sympathetic ear to hear her troubles but she didn’t want to ask. The “tough old lady” with the hard exterior had just cracked, and we had bonded.
A week or so later after recovering, she called me to insist that she would be bringing over a loaf of home-made bread. She had never been inside my house and I was thrilled that she was walking across the street to see me. I welcomed her at the door and we sat and talked together. She told me about her family bread recipe and the history of her family.
In the past few months, we have exchanged numerous phone calls and conversations in the yard. We have even become Facebook friends. I am constantly amused that this self-described “tough old lady” would have the sweetest and funny Facebook posts. I could tell her what a sweet lady she really is, but I think she has an image to protect.
When I think about our relationship, it becomes clear to me when it got better. All it took was an invitation. A sharing of food between neighbors created a bond of friendship. It was an invitation of food that allowed us to enter each other’s homes, and each other’s hearts.