One reason Rob and I chose to live in our neighborhood is because of its diversity. We live in Austin which is largely segregated, so by the nature of the city in which we live, even the diversity we do have is limited. Like many urban neighborhoods nation-wide, our neighborhood is quickly changing. I fear that even the diversity we do enjoy today may be short-lived. Houses are being torn down daily. New residences rise in their places. Some tensions exist between “old” residents who are feeling pushed out by high property taxes or changing dynamics and some “new” neighbors who encourage development and leveling of older homes.
I have made friends in my neighborhood and on my street, some of whom have been in their homes for decades and others, only months. Over the 8 years we have lived here, we have rebuilt our home. While we did add on to the back, we maintained the layout of the original house and kept the inviting front porch that we fell in love with at first sight.
This Thursday, October 27th, we will be hosting our neighbors for a potluck on that same front porch that has been here since the 1920s. I started talking about hosting this party months ago. I have talked to just about anyone who has walked by. “I’m going to host a neighborhood party soon. I’ll let you know!” I guess I thought that if I told enough people about the plan, someone would hold me accountable for doing it.
As I started printing off the 90 invitations this weekend, however, I started to feel apprehensive. Will anyone come? Do I have the energy or time to put this together? To pull it off?
Doubtful or not, on Sunday my almost-4-year old daughter, Maya, and I walked for over an hour, to at least 80 houses, delivering invitations. Maya stood on tiptoes reaching mail slots and receiving kisses from labradoodles and rescues. Acorns crunched under our feet as we crossed driveways and climbed stone steps. We learned new names to go with familiar faces. As we placed the bright yellow half-sheets into the hands of our now friends the excitement and anticipation began to build. We kind of skipped and laughed, talking about the fun we will have at the party.
Our walk got me thinking about the power of an invitation, the feelings one elicits in receiver and sender. There is a nervous excitement and so many questions, Who will be there? What can I bring? Do I have everything ready? Will I know anyone? Will I go alone or with a friend?
Since Sunday, I’ve talked, in English and Spanish, at dawn and at dusk, in passing and across the fence, to many neighbors. “What can I bring?” “Are kids invited?” “See you then!”
I wonder who will perch on our porch this Thursday. I wonder who will come and what they will talk about and who they will talk to and how long they will stay. I wonder and wait and hope and expect. I wonder, Can I be a “new” neighbor and also be a good neighbor?
I don’t know who will come or how it will go. But I know that I love the anticipation of an invitation. It brings so much possibility for connectivity that just didn’t feel possible before.