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Essays by Karen Anderson: Neighbors

Illustration by Kacie Brown

If someone tells me he has a skunk under his porch, I am politely interested. But if that someone lives next door to me, I’m riveted. My porch might be at risk. Or my cat. Or my sleep.

Which is why I host a neighbors potluck a couple times a year. We need to share intelligence on off-leash dogs and on-site skunks. Who’s remodeling or having a baby. And when is the City crew going to repair the potholes on our street?

This is about as grassroots as it gets, including conversations about lawns and mowers. Most of us aren’t social friends but maybe something harder—friends by chance, by proximity—who share responsibility for a particular corner of the world.

We depend on each other not only for live-trapping critters and borrowing ladders but for creating a place to call home. And if there’s a problem down the road, even right next door or across the alley, it’s easier to solve it with somebody you already know.

My husband shoveled a neighbor’s driveway and received a loaf of homemade bread. When I locked myself out of my house, another neighbor offered to help me break in. When that failed, he offered me a martini.

Thank goodness for neighbors and potlucks. It’s time to swap stories about ivy fungus and oak wilt and garage sales. Everybody knows the drill: a dish to pass and a lawn chair.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.