Slow-Cooked Sentences

My neighborhood

Rachael Conlin Levy
“little neighborhood”
courtesy of everything.in.blue

“What’s boyhood?” my son asked.

“The time you are a child. A boy’s childhood is called boyhood.”

“Oh,” he said.

“When you grow up and become a man, it’s called manhood.”

“And after that you’re a neighborhood?”

“Nah,” I laughed. “A neighborhood is a place, not a state of existence.”

But later, I got to thinking about my neighborhood, my street and my place on it, and decided that my son had hit on something. A neighborhood is more than a series of streets and houses and businesses. It can be its own living entity. Just like a corporation can assume human qualities imbued by the people who run it and work there, or a nation take on characteristics of its citizens, we become the neighborhood we live in. Our individual personalities shape the collective character of our street.

This became apparent over the summer when the rental across the street housed a family that was painfully out of sync with the block. Why did the neighborhood reject this family? Firstly, money — the family had noticeably less than the rest of the street based on the number of broken cars in their driveway, and the number of times they knocked on doors asking for the phone, food, tools or rides. Secondly, (and this is harder to admit) I think they didn’t fit in because of race, despite a diversity of ages and ethnicities existing on the street. In “Taking Care: Understanding and Encouraging Self-protective Behavior” Neil D. Weinstein cites a number of studies that have found that neighborhoods need a certain amount of homogeny to function. We need to share something other than just fence lines, and finding that link is getting harder in a neighborhood like mine with its shrinking percentage of elderly and expanding populations of immigrants and rentals units.

So I’m challenging myself to find the common denominator that defines my street. I want to develop a map of my neighborhood that not only employs physical boundaries and statistical spreadsheets, but uses the medium I feel most comfortable in: stories.

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One response to “My neighborhood”

  1. Jammer says:

    Sounds like an interesting project, and a great way to get to know your neighbors. I look forward to reading these!

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