There is a family that still lives next door in my mind. For several years, they physically lived next door. Until then, I had no reference point of the extremes that neighbors could occupy in one’s life. I had experienced less than desirable neighbors, but no neighbors from hell. We had some interesting neighbors, even a girlfriend’s family for a year, nothing stood out until this one.
I can describe the neighbor that changed my life in several different ways. When we moved in, I had one mother. When we moved out, I had two. Before we moved in, I knew, with reasonable certainty, the names of those that would be sitting at the table for a meal. When we lived next door to this neighbor, I had no idea who was going to be sitting at the table. The meal did not matter. It could be breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Even a midnight snack was not predictable! I came to enjoy the fact that there were two refrigerators that I could raid at night. One was in the kitchen. The other was next door.
Initially, the idea that family was composed of multiple fathers and mothers and far too many brothers (no girls in either family) was overwhelming. With time and experience, I came to appreciate and love the wonderful traits of the distinct personalities. If unconditional love, always being within a phone call, and being in your stuff qualifies one to be family, each member qualified.
The full realization of their place they had occupied in my heart only came later. When we “moved far away and trouble moved in next-door. I [realized I] need a neighbor.” (Psalm 22.11)
I do not really know my current neighbors. Their stories are empty pages. I recognize them, well at least most of the time. When I see them I say “hi” and hold the elevator door for them. Given the reference point, I know more is possible. Last time they made the first move. I have no idea if there will ever be a next.