I've lived in the same apartment since December of 1999. During that time, I have gone through several phases: single woman living alone, newly wed, and parent of one and then two young girls. I've seen lots of neighbors come and lots of neighbors go but there are a surprising number of neighbors who I have seen on the elevator for over a decade with friendly elevator and lobby chats but never any substantive conversation.
When I was growing up in the suburbs, welcoming and knowing your neighbors was the expected norm. We lived in a townhome complex when I was a preschooler and I knew every kid in the complex and often played with other kids from every cluster. We moved to a house when I started first grade and I knew every family with kids and many of the ones without kids on the immediate six blocks around. Those kids were my playdates, confidants, and buddies for walking to school. Knowing your new neighbors was institutionalized with the Welcome Wagon and my mother trained me to always welcome new neighbors with a gift of home cooked food and an invitation to get to know one another.
When I was single, I knew the neighbors in the four apartments on my floor. One of them took me under my wing when she realized that I lived alone and had been at the World Financial Center on 9/11. She became a very close friend (and is also an early SheSpeaks member!) and did one of the two readings at my wedding. Another of my neighbors had moved a block or so away but was the person I called upon when I unexpectedly went into labor with my second and needed someone to look after my first until my sister could arrive from the suburbs. My neighbors have been the best!
Recently, I had a few weeks between jobs and I was determined to get to know a few of those women in the elevator that I have known, but not known, for over a decade. They came for tea and conversation and I really enjoyed forging stronger connections. They're both mothers of multicultural kids so there was a lot of common ground.
Time is always an issue but I need to figure out a better way to make sure that I do know my neighbors. If you have cracked the code, do let me know!!