I know that change is supposed to be good—it’s what I tell my kids, anyway—but ever since my next-door neighbours moved two weeks ago, I haven’t been able to get over the loss.
I didn’t expect to be so emotional, nor did I realize I’d grown so attached, but this family is extraordinary. They welcomed us into the area when we first moved in. I was married then and my boys were 18 months and three months. Over the years, my neighbour Andrea supported me through my divorce, tutored my kids, and even treated our lice epidemic. Evan always shut my garage if I left it open at night, he wrestled with my boys on our front lawns in the evenings, and he was there to help us when a baby raccoon found himself trapped in our garbage bin. Their teenage daughter was our go-to babysitter and the kids and I love her. Their teenage son pulled my boys’ loose tooth when I was too grossed out to attempt it myself. I knew that we could just traipse across our front lawn and find somebody next door capable of the task. Their youngest son is roughly my boys’ age and the three kids have played together nearly every day since they were in diapers. Over the years, they became inseparable.
On nights when I slept in my house alone, when my kids were with their dad, I felt safe knowing my neighbours were a scream away. Now their house sits dark and empty as the new neighbours have yet to move in. I’m suddenly afraid to sleep on my own. I didn’t realize how safe they made me feel until that very first night they were no longer there and I could no longer sleep.
I put on a brave face for my boys. I tell them how exciting this is and how we’ll have play dates and sleepovers. “It’s going to be great!” I tell them.
But inside I feel my neighbours’ absence acutely. I can’t talk to Andrea without crying. If I close my eyes, I can make myself believe they are still there. When I open them, I realize it’s just wishful thinking. I know they are gone. I know that you can’t rewind time. I’d have tried it a million times already.
Even though they are just a two-minute drive away, I miss their family deeply. I miss their friendship. I miss knowing there is a family right beside me who will be there for me and my kids in a crisis. I hate that things keep changing. I hate feeling alone on a street full of other neighbours. I hate that things just never stay the same.
I’ll never forget when I first heard they’d sold their house. I was on a trip with my boys when Andrea called to tell me the news. She’d put her house up for sale and it sold instantly.
“That’s great!” I said.
Then I started balling. I couldn’t stop. It was such a shock. And so sad. I was happy for her. I tried to feign it, at least, but I knew it would break my boys’ hearts. It broke mine, too. But months passed and things remained the same. I knew they were moving but we had months to continue looking out for one another and for our kids. Then somehow December rolled around, and one day, there was a moving truck on their driveway. We never threw a goodbye party or made a fuss because we didn’t want to upset the kids. The truck was just there, and then it disappeared. I put a smile on for my kids during the day, but at night that disappears, too.
As the new year approaches, I don’t want to be sad. I want to be brave. Our neighbours will always be our friends. I am comforted by that thought. When our new neighbours move in, I will welcome them with the same warmth I was afforded more than six years ago when my family and I arrived. In time, I hope we can develop a relationship that is just as strong.