Flashback Friday: Neighbors

One of my favorite TNG episodes is “Tapestry.” In it, that omnicharming rapscallion Q offers Captain Picard the chance to change a moment from his past that would impact the captain in dire ways in his present. However, true to Q, the offer comes with a price and a lesson, which Picard adeptly sums up:

There are many parts of my youth that I’m not proud of. There were…loose threads…untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads, it’d unravel the tapestry of my life.

I’ve never been impaled by a Nausicaan. I’ve also never had an omnipotent being with blue lips toy with me on a regular basis. However, I appreciate the sentiment of Picard’s statement. We each have spun our own tapestries, with threads connecting us to all aspects of our lives. Sometimes those threads end, lost in a pattern long forgotten for newer weaves, different colors. Sometimes, they loop back in on themselves, leading us once more toward the start of it all.

I recently followed one of those threads, back to the place I once called home. Really, I suppose it was more like my hometown. I didn’t quite make it to my actual childhood home, although I was quite close. It was a bit of a sad homecoming; I returned to say goodbye to the matriarch of the family next to whom I grew up. Actually, she was not only my neighbor, but also my father’s neighbor when he was little. I can still hear her calling my dad by his childhood nickname whenever she saw him, long after the gangly boy who once answered to that name was but another finished pattern in his tapestry. And he always responded.

I’ve actually written about this family before here at the lair…or, more precisely, their swimming pool. And their youngest daughter’s Big Wheel. Their youngest daughter was six years older than me, but she humored my youthful adoration. She taught me how to swim and later how to jump off the diving board, taught me how to roller skate, took me trick-or-treating for the first time.

The parents were generous and earnest, hard-working and with home and hearts always open to family and friends. They also must have possessed infinite reserves of patience, living next door to a chubby little tomboy who loved nothing more than to do raucous activities like bouncing a softball off our chimney bricks for hours, to practice catching pop flies. Or smashing softball after softball after softball over their fence, sometimes even into their pool, while practicing batting. Or spending hours whacking a golf ball all over the back yard, they more than likely cringing from the safety of their house each time they heard it thunk off the walls of my dad’s shed…or the inevitable crash when I sent it through one of his shed windows. Kind of like the time I threw a dart through one of the garage door windows. Then there was that infamous summer I discovered the bow and arrows in the attic. I’m willing to bet the neighbors hustled their dog and cat indoors quite swiftly when they saw me traipsing across our yard with a bow slung across my back.

[Loba Tangent: Truth be told, I bet if you went into the woods right beyond my childhood home, you’d probably find enough softballs, baseballs, tennis balls, golf balls, Frisbees, and, yes, arrows, to stock your own personal phys ed closet. I was apparently a holy terror when it came to outdoor play. Amazingly, I never once broke any of their windows or impaled any of their pets. Bonus.]

As I drove to the funeral home to pay my final respects, I rightfully reminisced about all these things and more. About how the mother and her youngest daughter brought me a stack of coloring books the day our other neighbors’ dog attacked me, leaving me needing nine stitches. About how she always tried to keep her hair dry while swimming, and how she thought it was the strangest, silliest thing that I’d named the family cat “Data.” Or how, on many a school morning, I would have to run out of our house to stop her from driving away with her bag and coffee mug still on top of her car. Little moments, to be sure, but ones that always make me laugh.

Our families are forever linked by the intermingled threads we’ve woven throughout each other’s lives. They were wonderful neighbors and part of the brighter portions of the beginning of my tapestry. Goodbye, Mrs. S. Requiescat in pace.