Back to the Good Old Days

Gina Ballentine essays

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Growing up I always heard stories from my parents about “the good old days”. These were the days when your neighbors looked out for all the kids on the block and had cookouts, when people wrote get well and thank you cards, and the days when others were  compassionate and reached out during hard times to lend a helping hand. My mother tells stories about her neighborhood; how they all were friends and that she couldn’t get away with anything because her mom was friends with all the neighbors and they would immediately tell of her antics. It sounded divine, a life I wanted for myself and my kids when I had them.  

I thought those days were forever gone, I grew up in the country with very few neighbors and no kids my age. When I bought my first home I only met one neighbor and it was very brief, just a wave here and there when pulling out of the drive. I was always outside in the yard, going for walks, playing with my dog; but none of my neighbors were outside and when they were they kept to themselves. There were children in the neighborhood but they didn’t leave their yards, like a dog with a shock collar they were trained to not stray out to meet other kids.

Two years after buying our first house it was time to upgrade; my family of 2 was becoming a trio. After a long, exhausting search we finally found our next home. It was situated in a small quiet neighborhood with no street lamps. No one had privacy fences and you could see into the backyard of all your neighbors on my street and the street behind me. I wanted to get a fence; I planned to with my next tax return.

My first night in the house, 8 months pregnant, my husband was staying at our old house watching a game with a friend. I went into the garage to throw something out and realized as soon as I shut the door that I had locked myself out. It was late November; I had just taken a shower and had soaking wet hair, pj’s on, slippers and a robe. I worked with a neighbor so I walked down to her house to borrow her phone to get my husband to come let me in. I stayed and chatted with her until my husband came to let me in, faster than I was ready for.

I knew that day that this was where we belonged. I had the baby and went for walks around the block. While walking I met many of my incredible neighbors, they walked up, introduced themselves, and quickly friendships were formed. We had cookouts, pool parties, and watch our kids play together. When I had our second child they took turns bringing dinner over nearly every night for a month, my oldest was taken to go play so I could get a nap.

We know each other’s children, spouses, parents and siblings. We watch out for each other’s kids, making sure they are playing safely and not getting into trouble. The kids are all friends, walking in and out of each other’s houses as if they are family. Like my mom these children cannot get away with anything since all us parents are friends.

In the tiny neighborhood of Pepperhill we are living in the “good old days” where we all look out for each other; bring meals when someone is sick, help to mow each other’s grass when a lawn mower dies. We cry when a neighbor moves away and welcome the new neighbors with invitations to our next get together. And I never got that privacy fence; instead I got amazing friends that have become an extension of my family, a fence would keep them out of my yard and that is the opposite of what I want.


About the Author

Gina Ballentine

Gina is a wife, mother, and terrible maid pushing paper by day and sweeping crumbs at night. Her musings can be found at .

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