The Long-Awaited Homecoming

1:05 PM

Only his arm, red sleeve and solid fist knocking gently on our open doorframe, was visible from where I sat—and even then only out of the corner of my eye. Rupert noticed immediately and let loose a torrent of defensive barks, likely full of inappropriate language had any of us spoken canine.

The man’s face was smiling and kind and weather-tanned, despite the early months, and his hand was outstretched with a white paper bag. As Tanya took it, I glimpsed a bottle of wine.

You guys are in the middle of maybe the third hardest life event there is, he said. I just want to welcome you to the neighborhood with a little bit of light, honest farmer’s food.

He’s lived on the street for twenty-something years, he explained. Two sons live with him, a third son and daughter-in-law live just a few houses up and his daughter visits frequently.

If you need anything, he told us, come ask. If you see something of ours that you could use, just use it.

This man, K–, is the second neighbor to utter such a sentiment. Two days prior, as a gaggle of friends were unloading the moving van, a neighbor approached from three houses up the street. She welcomed us, we exchanged contact information, and she gave us the lay of the land.

The man next door to her, she told us, between K–’s house and hers, is getting into woodworking. Our neighbor on the other side runs the organic garden at the local Montessori school.

Everyone, she said, is kind. They have block parties. They help each other. So, when we find ourselves in need of something, instead of running to buy it simply ask. If we need tools, or help, or any sort of kindness, just ask.

Tanya and I agree that buying a house is about community. It’s about putting down roots, investing in a neighborhood, supporting a city. It’s also, of course, about us. It’s about dreaming impossible dreams—and then fulfilling them.

When we talk about our dreams, they fall into three categories: food, wood and the earth. We want to continue culinary experimentation, publish more recipes, document more processes. We want to try woodworking, building simple furniture, re-familiarizing ourselves with the smell and the feel of shavings and sand paper and hard work. We want to deepen our knowledge of organic gardening, preservation, canning and even selling what we grow. We want to compost, reduce waste, use rainwater, learn how to lessen our footprint.

These are our dreams. They’re not too unusual, but they aren’t for everyone.

Our neighbors could’ve invited us over for football games. They could’ve talked about television, about miscellaneous hobbies that we don’t necessarily have in common.

Instead, they talked about organic gardening and woodworking. They offered use of things like table saws. K– has a rain barrel in his backyard. And, when we opened the bag of food he so kindly brought us, we found rolls of roast beef with curls of fresh parmesan, perfectly seasoned potatoes and onions tossed in a light vinegar, and seasonal veggies with crumbles of feta. After so many days of takeout, Tanya and I melted at the taste of real, fresh, perfectly curated food.

Purely by accident, Tanya and I seem to have stumbled onto one of the greatest streets in the city. We seem surrounded by neighbors who, miraculously, share not only our values but also our passions.

Everything we went through to get this house, the whole arduous, four-month journey, was worth it. Every questioning thought, every inevitable is this really the right decision? moment, was wiped from our minds by these neighbors. I can’t wait to meet more of them.

We’re finally home.

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