When I think of a neighborhood, I think of the street in Colorado Springs where my parents’ house stands, the house where I’ve lived off and on ever since moving out at 17.
I think of the garage artist and his wife who play catch in their driveway, the man half a block down who smokes and says hi when I’m walking my dog every day, and the elderly couple in the corner house who own an ancient Basset Hound and send thank-you cards to everyone with Christmas lights each year. I think about the Russian sage and wild raspberries that my parents planted years ago, which finally found roots and have begun to take dominion over the yard. I think about the trail that winds around behind the rows of houses along a creek in the shadow of the Rocky Mountain front range. And I think about the foliage after the rain. The grateful plants open up with new colors we’ve never seen before and hold onto every drop of glittering moisture in the slanting sun like they never want to let them go.
My parents have owned this house for 23 years. Since then, collectively and alone, my family and I have lived in the Philippines, gone to college, taught abroad, attended grad school, and left to do whatever else life has planned for us. The truth is that because of all my coming and going, I couldn’t tell you the name of a single person who lives on my street—except for the Basset Hound; his name is Nester. I feel a conflicting sense of sanctuary and solitude when I come back to this house.
When I think of my own neighborhood, I think about my global community, and specifically the people with whom I have shared rooms, dorms, houses, and apartments, everywhere from Indiana to Manila to France. I think about home-cooked birthday meals, late-night noodle runs, homework parties that hopelessly dissolved into all-night conversations, and families who eventually came to be adopted as my own. I think about spontaneous Skype calls, impromptu sleepovers during overnight layovers, football game reunions, Snapchats from work, and so many nothings that add up to such significant somethings. I make sure to see these people when I’m in Germany or Zimbabwe for five days, and I fly across the country to hold their wedding dresses while they pee. They are the ones I have shared my life with, and we have all managed to reserve a little plot of virtual real estate in our lives to keep these neighborhoods alive and well.
One day I aspire to live in a geographical neighborhood and know not only the names of everyone in all the houses on my street, but also their daily struggles and sick relatives, their small grievances and large griefs. I will bring them home-cooked meals in a meager effort to comfort them, and in turn they will feed my soul with the warmth of familiarity, routine, and constancy. I will find my roots (wherever they might be), and although I will always have my wings, I might fold them for a season while I learn what it takes to plant a garden, host a block party, and be a loving neighbor. I will plant sage and raspberries and let them take over my garden.
Grace is the Assistant Director of Kaleidoscope, a nonprofit organization that runs programs for children who grow up in more than one country to provide them with safe spaces to navigate belonging and equip them with tools for success. She spends most of her time driving around the state of Colorado in her van, Benji.