Communities are made up of different kinds of neighborhoods. There are some neighborhoods that have a population that comes and goes pretty frequently. While that might not be a bad thing, depending on your needs and your situation, most of us prefer to live in an environment that is familiar, even comfortable.
In my family, we can now claim to have put 20-year roots into the Highland community in general and our neighborhood, more specifically. We have grown a little older, raised two boys and built onto the house to fit those additional needs.
Still, it is the convenience of living in this part of Indiana that has kept us here. With great parks, good schools and the safety of that familiarity, we hope we have made a difference.
I remember being a young homeowner working on the lawn that first weekend, at about this time of the year.
Within a day or so, we met the cast of characters that make up our immediate surroundings. Louis Heinrich and Cliff Guernsey, who have since passed on, were our neighbors to the west and east, respectively. They had been friends for 40 years and welcomed a new homeowner willing to put the time and effort into making his home look nice while getting to know the area.
There is a funny story about Heinrich, who had a mind like a steel trap. Unfortunately, he had suffered a stroke about 15 years before we moved in and had not fully recovered his speech.
He kept a lookout on the block and when we moved in, he spotted a suspicious character (me) trying to get into the garage. It seems that the previous homeowners had not left us the garage key and the bottom of the door was broken.
So, the suspicious character was trying to get into the garage by crawling through the broken door. Heinrich was at his back step yelling at me to get out of that garage. I stood there perplexed until I realized that he was yelling at me to stop doing what I was doing.
I smiled and waved to him, realizing that what I was doing did appear to be a little fishy. As I walked toward him, he very slowly began to smile. Within a matter of 10 minutes we had become fast friends. I would visit him every chance I got right up until he passed away in the late 1990s.
Eventually, I put a new service door on the garage, but I never forgot that first day. I knew as long as Heinrich was around, there would be someone looking out for our homes.
Twenty years later, I am the neighbor who passes on the old stories of people lost to time and those that have moved away. I can tell our more recent neighbors about the tree that fell in Heinrich’s yard – toppled by its own dead weight. We can talk about Guernsey’s many rebuilt Fords or his penchant for riding his bicycle.
The faces may have changed, but we still have connections up and down the block, people who you can call on for an egg on a Sunday morning or to help you dig out of a snowstorm. That is what neighbors are for, and when you have been in the same place for 20 years, neighbors are there for you through thick and thin.