By Buffy Calvert
George and I moved into our house on Delaware Avenue almost fourteen years ago. I thought I’d miss the comfort of other apartments above, below and across the hall, a stoop set on the sidewalk in a row of other buildings, stuck together with no gaps. After all, we’d lived in one neighborhood in New York for 45 years and loved it.
We landed right between Russ McKee and the Roneys, father and son. Russ backed his pickup up to our barn, stood on a bench in the bed and fixed our new weather vane to the peak. He graciously let our grandkids play croquet on his perfectly manicured lawn. It felt good to have a neighbor on our south side.
Kevin Roney, just retired from 20 years in the Navy, appeared at the door with spring onions and trout from his Shangri-La down the Bullet Hole. Both gleaming fresh and scrupulously cleaned, ready for the pan. In the fall he brought neat packets of venison. He developed a passion for landscaping our side of the street. First, he fashioned a patio and hot tub in his own back yard, then went on to create lovely outdoor rooms for Lynn Witkowski next door. He maneuvered a boulder he discovered in the woods into the center of a slate path he laid for me and kept all our lawns mowed. When the work was too much, he hired and trained beautiful young women to help out. He died last week. What shall we do without him?
The Heannings, across the street, kept an eye on George, grabbing the snow shovel when he was disobeying doctor’s orders. Ellie dashed to the rescue when he fell on a snow bank, summoned by Chrissy’s frantic yelps. Ashley has cared for our cats with a characteristic, “No problem!” Mel stuck my Christmas tree into his van at Hogan’s and had it tucked in the snow by my stoop before I could walk home. Nice to know a guy with jumper cables, too.
Next to Heannings on that side are the sociable Armstrongs. Pat climbed on our roof to deactivate an annoying flashing light; he and Dylan quietly shovel out my car; and Janice spied a strawberry apron in Paisley’s window and gave it to me to wear to the Strawberry Festival.
Dot Andrews is a whole village in herself, carrying hot muffins and casseroles to us all and seeing that Bill Roney gets The Daily Star. Daily.
It was a good day when Thelma and Bill Ruff settled in next to Dot after selling their prize-winning farm on Palmer Hill. And when Eloise Harris began to wheel Montana in her stroller to the Pool. Today Monty is as tall as her mother. Her father, photographer Joe Damone, is also a daily presence with Frankie-the-Pug on a leash. Pat Brannen caps the top of the block on that side; Ron Guichard benignly supervises ours. We all feel the loss of the two Liddle households: George and Jeannette who looked out for us in myriad ways, and Aasta and Tink, with their warm friendship. Still, we rejoice when the lights in those houses are lit up, even if only on weekends.
Children race up and down the school yard behind our house, their shouts a welcome music in my ears. In April, kindergartners will thread the walk looking for “signs of spring”, accept a golden daffodil each, and write thank you notes. Older students drop by to sell tickets to dinners and plays. In fact, ACS, the Pool, Town Hall and the church form a convenient cluster just below me. And the brook sings her ever-changing, companionable song.
Once a year we gather together for a festive Delaware Avenue Picnic. All year long, in this circle of hills, I bask in the warmth of good neighbors on every side.~