I grew up to this song from Sesame Street and I still know the lyrics to this song sung by Bob McGrath and the Muppets.
People In Your Neighborhood
Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day
Oh, the postman always brings the mail
Through rain or snow or sleet or hail
I’ll work and work the whole day through
To get your letters safe to you
Bob and Muppet #1:
‘Cause a postman is a person in your neighborhood
In your neighborhood
He’s in your neighborhood
A postman is a person in your neighborhood
A person that you meet each day
Oh, a fireman is brave it’s said
His engine is a shiny red
If there’s a fire anywhere about
Well, I’ll be sure to put it out
Bob and Muppet #2:
‘Cause a fireman is a person in your neighborhood
In your neighborhood
He’s in your neighborhood
And a postman is a person in your neighborhood
Well, they’re the people that you meet
When you’re walking down the street
They’re the people that you meet each day
The extended version of the song also sings about a baker, a teacher, a barber, a bus driver, a dentist, a doctor, a grocer, a shoemaker, a cleaner, and a trash collector all as the people in one’s neighborhood. I was singing this song to my three-year-old nephew Enzo last week when it struck me as how little we actually think of our own neighbors in relation to our personal spaces. It inspired me to write about my neighbors and how they help define a whole new perspective to human interaction.
This is the article currently posted at HerWord.com.
Visiting With “Neighbors,” Virtual Style
It used to be, many years ago, that when one said one was “visiting with the neighbors,” one meant just that. One would get dressed (or at least attempt to look presentable), walk out the doorway, and then choose which neighbors to one’s left or right to drop on in for a few hours, or maybe even the whole day.
When I was a little girl, I loved to drop by unexpectedly on our kindly old neighbor whom I remember fondly as Aling Kulot (because of her distinctly curly hair). She always welcomed me with special treats of food, making her an obvious favorite as far as neighbors go. I still remember the happiness of bright red sodium-nitrate-ladened tocino (sweet cured pork) draped thick and juicy on a plate with a large serving of hot garlic fried rice, fried eggs, and atsara (pickled papaya strips). I would stay there until my mother would pick me up, sated, sleepy, and unwilling to go home. Tocino was a very big come-on for me, even in my adult years.
These days, neighbors mostly keep to themselves. No longer do we see women angled over fences and chatting up a storm, or even little children going in and out of neighbors’ homes as if they were family. The occasional wave, nod, and smile from far away have all replaced good old human interaction.
I am on speaking terms with my neighbors to the right, but I don’t even have a face or a name to put to my neighbors on the left. So I call them Lefties, for convenience. In all the years that they’ve been living beside us, the Lefties have never reciprocated on any of our neighborly gestures. In fact, they seem to delight in making things miserable for us.
When they were constructing their house, the Lefties’ workers climbed all over our rooftop without permission and proceeded to build their wall using our roof as instant scaffolding. I woke up one morning to find a group of rowdy men spilling mortar, sand, and cement, and creating a ruckus with their machines. I indignantly asked them to get off my roof and demanded to meet with the owner of the property. The men left shortly after, but the only person who ever apologized was the foreman of the construction company. The Lefties never bothered to show up.
Then, they walled in our cable and telephone lines, again without our knowledge. They did not, however, insulate the wires trapped between two concrete walls, so when the rains came, our cable and telephone lines became grounded and went dead on us.
I don’t know if they purposely set out each day to make things difficult for us, but lately, my dislike for them stems from the way they imitate our car horn’s signature rhythm. My husband devised a set of rhythmic horn blows to identify himself when coming home. That way, Alphonse, our autistic child, knows who to expect with the blaring of the horns. To our consternation, however, we’ve had to change our rhythms thrice last year as someone in the Lefties household keeps copying them. Just a few days ago, the culprit did it again; Alphonse ran out hurriedly, all smiles then, very eager to see his father. The squeals of delight soon turned into a major temper tantrum when he found out that the honks were for the Lefties. It took us an hour to calm Alphonse down, and even after that, he would not be pacified. He wailed and shouted and stomped his feet in anger and disappointment.
I don’t mean to complain about my neighbors. In truth, I’ve adopted the policy of “live and let live” when it comes to the Lefties, so my karmic energies are not tainted with negativity and resentment. But I bring this up to illustrate how different neighbors of the modern age can be — our fences are built high and our walls thick. I guess I have no luck with my neighbors.
And so I simply found new ones.
No, I didn’t move. Didn’t have to. A few months ago, I started hanging out with the new neighbors and, these days, visiting them every day has become quite a compulsion. The good thing about these new neighbors is that when I do visit, I can do it unannounced. I don’t need to get out of my PJs and get dressed. Most days, I don’t even bother to comb my hair before I am at their door. I talk only when I feel like it or when I have something important to contribute, but for the most part, I am content to let them tell me the stories of their lives. Talk about a no-pressure commitment.
Who are these good neighbors, you ask?
They are the people in the weblogs I visit. I think of them as neighbors now, as I know some things that go on in their lives. And I think of their blogs as their virtual homes, a reflection of who they are and what they believe in. I am a welcome visitor every day. And while I do know some of them personally, others I know only by their words, by the pictures they share, and by the stories they tell.
My mornings are not complete without them. As soon as Alphonse goes to class in the mornings and I have no other pressing chores for that hour, I check my mail and open a separate window for my favorite “neighbors.” I then “visit” them one by one.
• Sexy Mom’s (The D Spot at http://dine.racoma.com.ph/) son Vincent passed the Ateneo College Entrance Tests. Congratulations!
• Pinay Megamom’s (http://megamomph.wordpress.com/) three-year-old Choco-dile gave himself a distinctive haircut. I think he’s really cute!
• The Sassy Lawyer (http://houseonahill.net/) finally got her fifteen-year-old daughter to ham it up on camera.
• My online kumare Leirs (http://mushings.blogspot.com/) posted my godchild’s baptismal pictures on her album.
• Alex’s preschool teacher, Teacher Julie (http://teacherjulie.com/), showed us pictures of her beautiful children at play.
• KT Sanctuary (http://blog.sanriotown.com/kt_sanctuary:hellokitty.com/), with her treasure trove of Hello Kitty finds, modeled a very curious Kitty hat from Taiwan. You’ve got to see it to appreciate it.
• Thirteen-year-old Angie, (http://blog.sanriotown.com/angelchao4:hellokitty.com/) wrote of the traits that identify her as being born in the Year of the Dog. (I’m a Goat myself. Bleat!)
• One of my favorite writers, Cathy Babao-Guballa (http://nancydrewandme.blogspot.com/), shared a real story about the dangers of petting zoos. Today she has on a piece about the latest Migi’s Corner in Miriam College.
• Mom-NOS (http://momnos.blogspot.com/) wrote of son Bud’s diverse, if masculine, interests in country music.
• And Susan Senator (http://www.susansenator.com/), who holds the distinction of being the author of the most realistic autism book I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot), has taught me that there is life beyond autism. She has just announced that she will teach a bellydance class for moms of kids with special needs. Well, I hope she wears that breathtaking pink chiffon and satin costume; she’ll wow everyone in her class.
And who am I to my neighbors? I am Kittymama, loving wife, proud mother, Hello Kitty fanatic, and autism advocate. In this virtual world, my neighbors are my friends and we are polite to each other. We are respectful of each other’s space, and at the same time, profoundly grateful that we are building a common history. When they do drop by, I am effusive in my thanks. And I still get a real thrill whenever they leave a comment or two.
Blog-hopping is this age’s equivalent of “visiting the neighbors.” And while, to some, it may seem as no more than a voyeur’s rationalization for his compulsions, to many, it opens the doors of friendship and provides a virtual haven where geographical borders or time zones do not limit human interaction.
So come and visit my “home.” Visit my friends’ “homes.” Everyone is welcome.
Postscript: My list grows longer each day, and these days, an hour is often not enough to go through all of them. I find friends where I least expect to find them, but they are always a blessing to me. May you be as blessed with good neighbors as I am, and doubly blessed with good friends!