September 2, 2008

End of summer

Every Thursday during the summer, we gather on our street for happy hour. The host provides some snacks and everyone brings his or her own drinks – beer, wine, soda, juice boxes, formula. We stand in the yard and talk. The kids ride tricycles and bikes, play with hula hoops, and write on the sidewalk with chalk.
The host house is designated by a flock of flamingos. We eagerly look to see who is hosting each week. In fact, my very young neighbors call the gathering itself “the flamingos.”
It is very sweet – all these folks who are bound together only by geography, this tiny slip of pavement called Hilltop Drive. We visit, we trade stories, we catch up with each other. We grieve with M-P and with J whose husband and wife, respectively, have died from cancer since our last summer’s gatherings. We celebrate with A and T as they wait for their new baby. We ooh and aah over T who is two months old and having breathing problems, still on a monitor but gaining weight and doing better, so his brand new parents are finally getting some sleep. We observe birthdays and anniversaries. We meet neighbors who have new dogs and new neighbors who have new houses. We talk about books we are reading, where we will go or have gone on vacation, what is happening in our work or life. We exchange phone numbers for folks who clean gutters and mow lawns and are reliable and charge fairly. We gently discuss politics, some ignoring the lawn sign of a candidate they do not support and others finding kindred spirits.
Winter will come all too soon, and we will retreat to hibernate in our snug little houses. But in summer, we are out and talking and sharing.
I hosted the flamingos this year. People came and stayed until it was dark and the mosquitoes were biting. It was very nice, standing in the twilight and laughing and talking, and feeling the preciousness of a summer evening on Hilltop Drive.
The pink birds have flown to their off-season nesting location, probably a roost in someone's garage. We are back to school and back to fall schedules and back to our own little houses. But we are neighbors, and we wave to each other as we drive off to our various heres-and-theres. We know we can call on each other if we have to, and we know that the flamingos will be back next year, calling us together once again!

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