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A Big Owl Pot-Luck Dinner
We are a strange lot. We live here, sometimes for many years, and still we often know very little about our neighbors.
Like many of us, I have a four-party line, but I’ve never met the folks who share my telephone with me. I don’t have any excuse; it just works that way when you don’t share fences. My nearest neighbors live more than a quarter of a mile away, so we can use that as a reason, but it’s not one that makes a great deal of sense.
So it was a pleasure to get an invitation to a potluck at the Silkworth’s, which brought together most of the residents of Big Owl and Cabin Creek Roads last December. More than 35 people came, including many young children, as well as a number of folks well into their 60s and 70s.
And I got a chance to meet my party line family, who turned out to be very nice, and we whined together about the lousy service. We made promises to visit each other, and I hope we will.
Most of were surprised, I think, to find so many people there. We had assumed there were fewer of us, so the house was more than full, and we had perhaps only 75% of the full time residents.
And, if the others were like me, we spent quite a bit of time looking around and wondering, “Who’s that?” We didn’t have name tags, probably because we didn’t think it would be necessary, but without them I spent most of the evening mystified by my lack of knowledge about this group of people I felt I should know.
What’s most surprising about all this is that in an area where we should be interdependent on one another, we nevertheless know very little about most of our neighbors, and that tradition goes back almost to the beginning. Katherine Garetson was my grandfather’s nearest neighbor back in 1917, and she knew him only as someone who had bought the homestead for “a summer estate.” They did not meet and become friends until many years later, when she no longer lived here full time.
One can only speculate on the reasons why we don’t know each other better. Some of us live here only part of the time. Many of us work down below and have little time for socializing. A few prefer solitude. Snow makes visiting difficult in the winter, and the summer is a busy time for most of us. We have few places to meet outside our homes, other than church and the post-office. And because we don’t see each other across a fence, we have few opportunities to socialize by chance. Or maybe I’ve missed it altogether.
Whatever the reasons, we should probably try to do something about it, as the Silkworths did, because it looked and sounded as though everyone who came had a very good time. This was the second such get-together they’ve hosted, so it’s probably somebody else’s turn, but I’m looking forward to the next one, wherever it is. And this time we’re going to have name tags.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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