How to Be a Neighbor Lady

I grew up in small towns in Maine, and my folks certainly taught me how to be a good neighbor but I didn’t learn how to be a Neighbor Lady until we purchased our home in South Portland. There, Laurel, our back fence neighbor, took me under her wing. I can’t remember when we started using the terms “Neighbor Lady” and “Neighbor Lady in Training” but I was at that point working from home and a bit more available.

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Neighbor Lady Training Goes Up a Level

Laurel had befriended a younger couple who’d moved to the area after the husband had become disabled due to a chronic lung condition. I would greet them as they walked the dog, the once strong man riding in an electric cart. As his condition worsened, Laurel asked me to prepare a meal or two, and to walk the dog and I readily agreed. Laurel kept me up to date and I knew she spent part of the nights with the couple as his time neared.

One morning, as I returned from an errand, she called over the back fence to let me know that he had passed in the night. We talked a bit, and she said, “She wants to have a wake at home and I told her we would do it. You OK for tomorrow night?”

Um? One deep breath and I said, “Of course. What are we doing?”

“Making a bunch of food, setting it out, greeting folks at the door, keeping the dog out of the cookies. That kind of thing.”

That’s kind of a lot, I thought. And I have a long To-Do list and … this woman just lost her husband.

“Let me know what you want me to make and what time to be there. Do we need napkins? Are we taking our own dishes, or does she have enough, or are we using paper? I’m in.”

And I was. After setting up, I mostly tended the buffet and prevented the dog from eating all of it while family members and close friends could grieve and share stories. 

Hidden in a storage box back in Maine is a “Neighbor Lady Certificate” for that moment when I learned that one of life’s most precious gifts is the opportunity to step in and do something necessary when someone needs you. Once again, I thank Laurel for providing that lesson.

–Midlife Musings and life hacks; this will be a regular segment for Heels and Tevas as we share our own musings, lessons learned and about those who taught us. The wise diva knows that she has much to learn and that not all continuing ed is found in classrooms.  

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