Connecting In Suburbia

Photo by Zulian Firmansyah, Unsplash

I live in a culdesac in a middle-class suburban neighborhood.

One of my best friends who lived directly across the ‘sac from me just moved, and after raising kids together and living the ups and downs of life for 23 years it feels really weird that she is gone.

My mom raised me right, and had it not been for Covid, I would’ve brought over some homemade cookies to the new neighbor who moved in, but I chose flowers instead.

If you don’t know the drill, here’s how it goes if you’re in the south anyways.

Your new neighbor moves in, and you go over and introduce yourself. Even two or three doors down, you go meet them. It’s what you do. You say hello, we’re all on this street together, I’m your new neighbor, nice to meet you.

And it’s kind of implicitly understood that while not bonded over anything specific, the mere fact we’re neighbors means there are some givens. We’re supposed to be each other’s “go-tos.” I’m gonna go to you when I need to borrow a half cup of sugar. And I’ll be your go-to when you need to borrow a big ladder.

These neighborly exchanges are part of the reason you love suburbia. You like that your kids can grow up with other kids who are right there. Built in playmates, boredom buddies, sometimes even best friends. You yearn for a connection with others. You like the knowing that someone is right next door if you need someone for something. You like the sense of safety in numbers. We’re all in this together, you and you, and you, and me all on this street. What happens to you, happens to me.

Each step out the door, you give a wave to the neighbor headed off to work, the neighbor working in the yard, the neighbor washing his car, the neighbor sitting outside watching her kids play. Each connection growing familiarity, growing friendship, bringing together lives and shared commonalities.

My neighbor across the street had a clear storm door covering her solid front door, just as we do. We used our doors. We’d each open our solid entry doors, letting in whatever light the day had to offer, pour in through the storm door, lighting up our lives inside. But it wasn’t just about letting light in. It was also about letting your neighborly light shine outward too.

I could look out across the street, see her open door, and know that she was home, available, open for the business of life, open to me and to you.

It was like having an invisible “open” sign plastered across the front of the house. The open door beckoned you to knock, to stand freely at the transom, knowing your knock would be answered, knowing that your in-person call would be welcomed.

Now with my new neighbor all I see is a closed door. Closed every day, all day long. I don’t know if she’s there or not there, but clearly she is not really open to the possibilities of neighbors, and all that the connections outside of her door have to offer.

It’s sad, and a little depressing.

Life has moved on, just as my good friend did, but the closed door across the street just reinforces that a chapter of life has ended, the “open sign” has been turned off, and I guess I’m supposed to move on too.

I propose that there’s power in an open door. It’s a metaphor for how open you are to potential, to possibility, to connection, to allowing yourself to engage with others. An open door is an open heart.

I miss the open door across the street and what it did for my soul the last 23 years of my life.

Perhaps my open door will be someone else’s soul-changer.




On a writing journey to somewhere. I like talking about life lessons and self-awareness. Proud mom, happy wife, just trying to leave something behind.

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Della Jennsen

Della Jennsen

On a writing journey to somewhere. I like talking about life lessons and self-awareness. Proud mom, happy wife, just trying to leave something behind.

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