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Dear Neighbor

May 10, 2013

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The car pulled up next to me yesterday as I walked to my front porch. Loaded down with lunch boxes, kindergarten gear, half-made marionettes for our show next week and still wearing my apron. As my  foot  reaches  the first step the car slowed down.

And then stopped in the middle of our street and the window rolled down.

Great, was my first thought, where is the blasted dog, surely he is going to tell me Hoover is again on the prowl. And I am too tired to chase that infernal animal.

 But the dog tripped me running into the house. I turned around and mustered a neighborly smile.

The car door opened and an older gentleman got out, leaving the car idling mid-street and door open. Slightly stooped with a Pan-Asian logo baseball cap he walked over. Oh dear, where is this going? I put my load down and walk down the steps.

Hello, I live behind you. You are the one with the gray dog and the big vine in the backyard?

Dang, it’s the dog barking, I hate the dog. This is Coach’s fault, he plays tag with the dog at 6am and makes him bark. Maybe I hate Coach.

I drive by and see your kumquats every day, they are nice trees.

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Yes, they are, would you like to pick some? It’s the end of the season for them. They’re organic,  I just water them.

It would be nice to take them and make preserves. I preserve them like how do you say…..          Oh, jam jelly? I make preserves as well, marmalade or chutney. Sometimes they are sour, though.

Oh, that sounds very good, I preserve them for health. I mix onions and herbs and they are good for lungs and chest to keep you healthy. 

He is from Taiwan, like many of my neighbors he is a second or third homeowner to of his house. Over the past 15 years, our particular housing tract has become popular to the various Asian communities. I’m not sure why probably the local school and someone once told me the houses had good Feng Shui; any case not many of my new neighbors speak English but they usually wave and are lovely neighbors. And I keep hoping for a Filipino family to move in so I could learn to cook my mother-in-law’s dishes.

He and I chat for a little.

I can pick them from your tree? Tomorrow I will come. I am Peter. Sure please do, the tree is too heavy with the fruit. Goodbye, nice to meet you Peter.

 Last night  I stood in the backyard of a beautiful house high up on a hill overlooking Newport Beach and Irvine. Nibbling cheese and sipping fine wine I chatted with the homeowner, a parent of Waldorf graduates and owner of a large organic CSA farm outside of Los Angeles. Our children are finishing up their freshman year together and the parents had gathered to collectively breathe sighs of completed 9th grade relief. He and I chatted about Waldorf and how unexpected it was to find another parent at this non-Waldorf high school who followed the Steiner philosophy. Funny where you find alignment.  He took Coach and I on a walk around his backyard, admiring beautiful waist-high, rough-hewn planter boxes of herbs and lettuces, raised mounded beds of  3 sister plantings, a compost pile, volunteer avocado trees, garden beds of salad greens and vegetables with herb borders.

Coach smiled a me later in the car home and said I know what you’re thinking.

Yes, that was like my dream yard, the one in the book, I want to host get-togethers like that,  share food I’ve grown and have a garden like that. Why don’t you?  Have you seen our yard, it’s a patio, where would we put people, in the alley? And the yard has no sun anyway to grow stuff. Our house is too little to host and not at that level anyway. 

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And then these were on the table, in a bag with a letter when we got home.

Dear Neighbor, 

Please accept these loquats……

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Community is where you decide to find it said a little voice. How you foster it and encourage it to grow. You give kumquats and receive loquats. They don’t come to see the house or the puny back yard. Quit wishing it and you were something different, or better or grander or whatever. Love where you are, love who you are, it’s what you tell your daughters. Take where you are and make it lovely, grass is greener where you water it the song says.

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The loquats are delicious. Have you ever looked at the seeds, like tiny  polished gems, ready to grow.

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