In this Mommy Minute, a review of the memoir 'In the Neighborhood' by Peter Lovenheim.
In the Neighborhood was a thought-provoking book that had me thinking about the way we live our lives today, what's important and what I myself am looking for.
I live in a neighborhood where there are, or were, neighborhood gatherings, which we went to when we moved in eight years ago. I don't know if they stopped having them or stopped inviting us but the neighborhood feels less friendly for sure. I know my neighbors enough to stop and say hi at local stores and restaurants where they fill me in on gossip and I suppose facts, like why my mailman stops so long down the street- a neighbor is having an affair with him that has turned into an engagement which all apparently started we the mailman asking on his route, "why isn't your husband weeding the garden for you." That started a conversation that turned into a romance that turned into an engagement that turned into them adding on to their house and an upcoming wedding. All I saw was the post office truck parked there longer and longer six days a week.
Not only did the book have me thinking about my neighborhood and my house but about the way we live today. Technology keeps me connected with friends I've had for years when I lived elsewhere. It has made me feel connected. But the book made me wonder if that was also a detriment. Has that feeling of connection together with a busy life raising three young kids and a new career kept me from making friends where I now live? I don't know. I know most of my coworkers much like I know my neighbors- in passing. My previous life working in TV news kept me in tune with what happened all over the cities I lived in but also kept me in a real community based on interests and professional lifestyle, different from the 9 to 5 world. Without that, I don't know what to do. And it made me wonder about things in the book, like how neighborhoods used to be made up of like-minded people (or does it just seem that way now with the gloss of history). Sandringham Road in Rochester, New York (where the book takes place) drew CEOs and doctors. But I don't think there is a common thread like that where I live or ever have lived. We have a home schooling religious family, local government workers, teachers, professors, retired people, etc. We live on the same street but do not live the same or similar lives. Does that matter?
I loved this book and thought how awesome it would be to buy a copy to give to each neighbor on my street while I was reading it. But by the time I finished I wondered if I even wanted to live where I live anymore. Is there a way to find a neighborhood feel like the one the author longed for and found myself longing for too? I wondered if it is possible to find today in a place where the school zones are rigged awkwardly so that the closest neighborhood school isn't our zone and so many people, including ourselves until this year, opt for charter schools instead if the neighborhood school. I had hoped that the author would have explored other neighborhoods in his book as well, like ones he used to live in to broaden the perspective.
But maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe the conclusion that he came to in the end, that it is about effort to know the people next door, is all that matters? It left me wondering about setting up a Facebook group for my neighbors like I have for my kids’ school. I wonder if a digital front lawn would make me and them feel like we do have more of a connection or if to find that connection, I need to move to a place where I have more in common with the people I live near.
I’m also inspired to take this idea to my students and have them do mini documentaries on their neighbors because when all is said and done – it would be a reason to purposefully get to know your neighbors and you never know what different that could make in your life, as Lovenheim points out in the book.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and give it five stars for its well-written conversational tone, interesting topic, and thought-provoking nature.