The first impression makes or breaks a relationship. This applies especially when you are moving into a new neighborhood. And it is also a mutual thing, of course. From my parents I had learned that you best introduce yourself before you even move in. Especially in an apartment building. We went from door to door to shake hands, let them know when we would arrive to prepare them for the usual open doors, drilling noises, and the initial ruckus that comes with moving in.
I never met any open hostility in my German apartment building life. Except for that one lady next door whose first comment was, “Oh my God, a piano!” when I moved in. Needless to say, we never hit it off. She was probably a person who was unhappy with herself. That is the kindest thing I can say about her. I spared her my music. Let’s leave it at that.
But there were other neighbors in the house who were so different. And they will be remembered with love. There was a family from Croatia next door – they even invited me to celebrate their daughters’ first communion. A family a floor below made it their mission to accept the (few) packages I got in the mail, so I didn’t have to retrieve them from the post office. And there was an Italian neighbor who worked with one of Germany’s foremost firework manufacturers and regaled me with stories about events he created choreographies for.
At another home, my Turkish neighbors pampered me with samples from their kitchen. And when I got married, the entire staircase to my top-floor apartment was decorated with garlands by all the families in the house. Not to mention the doorway and the gifts they left there. You can imagine what kind of a wonderfully close-knit, yet not intrusive neighborhood that was.
When my husband and I moved to Lakewood, we made it a point to introduce ourselves to our neighbors, too. They are all of different ethnic, spiritual, and cultural backgrounds. Which makes it a wonderful thing to learn about and from each other.
We help each other when a project needs another hand. We even bring in the garbage bins from the curb for each other. We give each other flowers and fruit from our gardens, bring over tidbits from our kitchens, shovel snow when needed, celebrate with each other, share the joy of successes and the woe of sickness or loss. We look out for each other whenever needed. It’s like an island in an ocean of people around whom we don’t know that well or not at all.
What my parents taught me was to reach out and be open-minded. And it has paid off in so many ways. Our little street is a multicultural oyster with a pearl of friendship inside. All of us keep fostering it with small gestures of kindness. And if it is just with a wave and a smile from driveway to driveway.