We’ve been enjoying a great summer at our new house this year. We moved in last October shortly before the weather turned cold and pushed everyone indoors. We had met some of our neighbors briefly but ski season seemed to keep us, and many of the neighbors, on the move continuously so the opportunity to break bread and get to know folks never really came together. Thank goodness for warm weather, little kids, and bikes.
Ours is a quiet street with little traffic and lots of kids – at least a dozen – so kids are back and forth in and among the different houses. Bikes have been the latest rage and the kids all get on their bikes in the evenings and ride up and down the street. Many of the kids are still a bit too young to be playing in/near the street unsupervised so the parents congregate out front to keep an eye on things. Proving once again that parenthood does not mean the end of a social life, we, all of us parents, have taken the parenting requirement of supervising our children and turned it into something grand: a weekly sidewalk dinner – or what our household calls the Sidewalk Cafe.
It all started with a shout from the street to “grab a couple of beers and come out front” to join our neighbor as we watched our kids ride around. Well… if you’re having beers you may as well have some chips, cheese, crackers and other snacks. Soon other neighbors joined in. Then the patio chairs started to sprout up in the street between parked cars. As each batch of snacks disappeared, another materialized. And still more neighbors came. By the end of the evening we had sampled raw-milk cheeses and various dark chocolates, eaten enough appetizers to consider dinner done, and drank beer, wine and lemonade. And best of all, we had the opportunity to get to know our neighbors better.
We’re getting a bit more organized as the weeks progress. Now one of us rolls a gas grill to the sidewalk for all to use. Collectively we’ve gathered tables to hold the food and chairs to sit on, and set them all up on the side of the road. The kids ride around and around stopping occassionally to fuel up (pit stop!) and then jumping back on bikes or trampolines. And the adults get to build a sense of community that will hopefully carry over through the winter – now that we know each other there’s no reason to have our social interactions hibernate all winter.