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home : commentary : shesaid April 29, 2016

My street
SheSaid:It takes a neighborhood to make a home
A collection of neighbors is truly a variation on a family; a group of people, forced together by chance, who will witness you at your best and worst, whether you like it or not.
-Shannon Drury

by Shannon Drury

Not long ago, I picked up the detritus left in our recyclers' wake, a not uncommon occurrence. Beneath my oak tree, I found a small orange bottle, its label revealing that one neighbor took a strong antidepressant. My usual cleanup routine involves responsible resorting of recyclables, but this time I panicked and shoved the telltale bottle into my now-empty garbage bin.

I am honest about my own challenges with anxiety and depression whenever appropriate. I generally think more of those who attend to their mental health, not less. Despite my increased respect for this neighbor, I disposed of the bottle furtively, like a criminal in the shadows. I wouldn't want anyone to find my medication on the street-though it dawned on me later that this almost certainly happened on a different garbage day.

Exposure is part of the neighborly experience. In the interest of saving energy, I air dry my laundry, but unlike another neighbor, I don't hang out my bras or my husband's Fruit of the Looms. I feel smug until I realize it's likely that everyone on the street, at one time or another, has seen me in my pajamas-or less.

A collection of neighbors is truly a variation on a family; a group of people, forced together by chance, who will witness you at your best and worst, whether you like it or not.

I remember a time when a different neighbor popped in to say hello, during that hazardous five-minute period just after lunch and just before cleanup, when a house with small children looks like Kansas after a cyclone. I might have made an excuse and kept my shame under wraps, had Elliott not already flung the door wide open and welcomed her in, his thrill at seeing her undiminished by the mess.

I like this neighbor very much, but she keeps a very tidy house. I saw her not-so-subtly survey the splayed-open cabinets, the stack of dishes waiting to be fed to the dishwasher, the coffee grounds sprinkled on the counter, the crumpled stack of newspapers, the unsorted pile of clutter that always accumulates by the back door (keys, loose Legos, sunglasses, Target receipts). We gabbed a bit before she scurried off to meet another neighbor for lunch, a mom whose compliant children have been witnessed not only holding, but using, Swiffer mops. After she left, I collapsed on the couch next to the buckets of unfolded laundry and wondered why I didn't choose to live in a cabin in the woods, utterly alone.


I stopped wondering when I realized that if I were left to my own devices, I would need more than a prescription to cope with life's challenges.

The clean neighbor saved the day when a scheduling mix-up left my son locked out of our house. The earth-friendly launderer advocates powerfully on behalf of the public school that's served our neighborhood since her now-grown children were small. The Swiffer kids are always happy to feed our cat when we leave town to visit our other family-the one we were born into.

My husband and I bought a 1929 Tudor for its proximity to Minnehaha Creek and its space for our growing family, not because we knew the street was populated by interesting, funny, and thoughtful people, yet this latter feature has affected our lives most of all. Our neighborhood is what made this house our home.

Shannon Drury lives in Minneapolis with her family and is a self-described radical housewife.

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