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W Park Lane Drive is a quiet, oak-lined street in a neighborhood of similar attributes.
Lorraine and George have lived in the single-story brick house across the intersection from our house for 30 years. They moved in when they were our age for many of the same reasons.
On Sunday of the weekend that we moved in, Lorraine caught my attention early in the morning. “Hello, I have something for you,” she said.
She carried a paper bag wrapped in plastic.
“It’s apple bread, and it’s fresh.”
It was true. The bread was warm and soft.
The neighbors directly across the street delivered some ice-cold watermelon when we were in the middle of unpacking the U-Haul.
And still other neighbors brought chocolates and Swedish fish for the kids.
Part curiosity at our Alaska license plates and part Midwestern friendliness, the people of W Park Lane Drive are future versions of us if we decide that settling down in one place is what we want to do.
Our story is now partially known along our street and down the side streets. Little old ladies, whom we have not met yet, probably talk about the children, the older boy with curly hair who will be going to Shepherd, the straight-haired boy who skateboards with that other boy, the one from two streets up. And that little girl, the one with long, blond hair. Isn’t she a cutie? Good thing she has two older brothers.
Don’t know much about the parents, they came here from Alaska. The wife and kids didn’t care for it much, or so Larry told me. He stopped off to meet them last week.
The father works in the city. He’s gone every morning at 6:45. Doesn’t get home until 7:15, or so. Their older boy helps mom out and starts up the grill every evening.
Don’t know much about ‘em though. They haven’t been around much on the weekends.
This same old lady has similar knowledge of every person within 3 blocks, maybe more. She tells her daughter and son-in-law these things when they come in from Naperville once a month.
They just nod and smile at her.
And she is mostly right. A few die-hards do their weeding and mowing before the heat of the day. They are tinkering in flower beds and with sprinkler heads at 5:30 a.m. when I go for a run.
When I return home from work, around 7:15 p.m., the houses are quiet, the ones with kids are buttoned up, though a few childish screams or giggles can be heard through the hedges from the house next door on those evenings when their cousins come in from Chicago Ridge to play.
An old man sits on a big cushion on a yard chair in front of his garage, I know he likes to watch the world go by. My grandparents used to do the same thing. They put an old couch in the garage and watched the neighbor children grow up. Perhaps because the first time around it all goes by too fast.
Lorraine waters her lawn almost every day in spite of the fact that she’s only supposed to do it on even days between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. She doesn’t really care, she told me. “I’ll pay the fine, if they give me one.” Her lawn is green and lush. Most of the others are yellowed and slightly withered. The grass barely grows at all in this drought heat.
Everyone waves as they go by. Some are retired, some work from home, others work part time. Some contemplate downsizing, others wouldn’t trade it for the world, the security, the peace and quiet. Some want to upgrade to something bigger and others would like to buy in the neighborhood.
There are no street lights. Probably because the crime rates are so low. Some neighbors have lamps. There are two gas lamps in front of our house. But on dark nights, it’s dark, very dark.
Dark enough to see fireflies and the Big Dipper.