Ali and I were coming home from school Friday and I was driving north on Alabama - not our usual route. I commented that I could easily live on that pretty stretch where it seemed like each house had a prettier yard than the next.
"I like OUR house," said my co-pilot, her standard reply whenever Jeff or I talk about moving.
We do love our neighborhood. Here's one of the reasons why:
One of my next-door neighbors has a special needs child. She's nearly 18 now, but we've known her since she was born, back when my neighbor was told the little girl would never walk, never be able to be out of diapers, never talk. Chelsea is 3.5 years older than Ali.
Years ago, when Ali was two or three, the girls were playing together and Alison crawled through the doggie door to get outside. Chelsea promptly followed her. Debbie remarked that had she not seen the example, Chelsea might never have discovered that fun escape route.
I felt a bit guilty that day and many days since when I think about Alison's growth and progress and that of Chelsea's. Because of Debbie's attention and care, though, Chelsea has blown those early diagnoses away. She doesn't just walk and talk and take care of her bodily needs, she rides a bike, she will have a conversation with people she trusts, and when she laughs it's like music in the wind.
Debbie did that. She's younger than me. She's a single mom with more than her share of physical challenges, which include back problems. She's sacrificed a lot for therapy and classes and she's been a steady, strong support for her little girl. And I will always admire her for it.
When I'm out in my yard, I'll sometimes drift over to help Debbie's out. Friday night, I was walking and she was out in the yard with Chelsea, powering through the grass. I'd been eyeing some weed issues under her beautiful maple tree and offered to help with weeding.
Chelsea was already on stick duty and very deliberately, choosing one stick at a time to take to the backyard debris pile. Given the number of sticks available to her, there was little chance the backyard would soon have more sticks than those in the front yard.
"Why don't you take two sticks at a time so they'll have friend to go with," Debbie suggested.
"OK, Mommy," came the happy reply. And then a running commentary on what each stick looked like or could have been.
Before long, another neighbor stopped by and said he'd help later but couldn't right now. And then Patty and Don from down the street came with a rake and gloves. And Jeff came home and got the chainsaw and ladder out to trim some dead branches.
Chelsea, who's been afraid of loud noises in the past, was delighted when Jeff kept climbing to to different parts of the tree to attack dead branches. "There he goes again!" she'd say, laughing and clapping.
We worked for just a few hours and it was one of the nicest Fridays I've had in a long time. It made me think of my conversation with Ali on Alabama Street. Sure the lawns were perfect and the homes might belong in the real estate section of the newspaper.
But they can't have neighbors as good as mine.
Yeah, we're not moving.