One of the things I remember most about growing up in Des Moines was the neighborhood and the neighbors. Specifically, that we knew them. Some of them we knew really well. I played with the neighborhood kids every day, and my parents socialized with the people who lived around us. Impromptu cookouts, a swim in the neighbor’s pool, even social outings together were the norm. To this day, I could still tell you the names, first and last plus some of the extended families, of the people who lived on our street when I was a kid, because they were our neighbors and we KNEW them.
Today it seems like it’s a different world. My husband and I have lived a lot of places in our 16 years of marriage and sure, we usually get to know the names of one or two families around us, especially if they have kids near our kids’ ages. But socialize? No. Really know? No.
People are busier now. More focused on the insane laundry list of activities they have to get their family members to, the extra hours at the day job, the rigid TV schedule they feel they can’t miss. Neighbors are people we live by, not people we really know. It’s easier that way, because people move more often.
But last spring, when we were still new to the city and barely knew anyone, someone in the neighborhood started something. Monday Night Neighborhood Kickball. Sounds simple, right? It is. The simple of a past era.
Everyone in the neighborhood (several blocks’ worth) is welcome. Monday nights, 2 hours. Come to the park. Bring a dish to share if you want, or eat beforehand if it’s easier. Just…show up.
Some of the kids play kickball, and some of the parents join in. Mostly the moms congregate in the shelter and talk. A lot of the dads become basemen (we don’t play teams. It’s not that organized.) Several families with really young kids use the play equipment, socialize, grab a bite. The fifth grade boys often chase and wrestle instead of play ball. The second-grade girls form a giggly, pink gang and find ways to entertain themselves that generally don’t include sports.
People eat, drink, play, talk, run, yell, burn off energy, get some exercise and…get to know the neighbors. All because one family thought it would be a good social outlet for their kids.
So simple and yet…how many people would actually take the time to organize such a thing?
Last night a man was there, one of the fathers, who’d been overseas all summer. He’d been part of the email group so knew of the weekly event but hadn’t previously been able to attend. As he told the woman who organized it, “You’ve turned back time forty years! What a gift you’ve given the neighborhood!”
So here’s to Sharon, our neighborhood’s time-travel goddess, who went to the trouble of calling the city parks department, buying some bases and a ball, and setting up an email group. So simple and yet…so few would do it. Maybe next week, for the last kickball session of the season, we’ll bring Sharon a gift of highest appreciation…blue margaritas.
(Side note: why yes, it’s a new personal goal to bring up margaritas in every single blog post. )