These are the People in My Neighborhood

Our street is a short, one-way street, four blocks from the Charles River. It’s lined with three-family homes, built at the turn of the century as industrial housing for people who worked at factories and needed places to live. The street gets mostly local traffic and even long-time residents of Cambridge don’t always know where it is.

I love this street. There are families and single people, older couples and students. There are Greeks and Chinese and white Americans and more Greeks and more Chinese and then there are even more Greeks. There are those we’ve secretly adopted as grand children, and there’s an Ethiopian family around the corner with the cutest twins I’ve ever seen. We keep on trying to meet them but always end up too far away when they walk by. But one day….one day, we will accost them and find out their story. There is Maria, Carla, Peter, little Peter, Christopher, So, and the uppity couple on the corner.

My Chinese neighbor across the street will wander over to make sure I’ve picked mint in her postage stamp garden; my Greek neighbor will shout out “hello’s” and make sure that I pull close enough to other cars when I parallel park, admonishing me: “We all have to leave space for each other in the city!”

If you head down the street and make a left turn, then a right turn, you may run across Billy Davis. Billy Davis was born on that street and he’s now retired, in his late seventies or early eighties we think. He’ll tell you all about Cambridge in the old days. He’ll talk about how everyone got along: the Irish, the Italians, the Portuguese, all the immigrant families. He’ll tell you how he couldn’t misbehave because there were so many watching mamas on his street and they all had eyes on the kids in the neighborhood. He may do something wrong, but the minute he walked in his own house, his mom would say “Hey, what were you doing down at the park?” and it was all over. His stories need telling and we are eager listeners.

Walk over a block and you reach our neighborhood mechanic, Phil. He’s the best mechanic in all Cambridge and will give you fair prices and honest assessments of what’s wrong with your car. He’ll even make a house call if you really need it.

Walk the other way to Central Square and you’ll come across the Village Grill, run by Theo and Helen. It’s a small, local neighborhood restaurant with an extensive menu. Biting into a piping hot gyros or Greek Salad with grilled chicken, you will find it is worth every penny. You don’t just pay for food, you pay for conversation and it is always interesting. Theo and Helen are Greek as well, so the conversation occasionally turns theological, which means it turns Greek.

I walk out of the house on this Monday morning, and smile at my neighborhood. It’s going to be a hot humid day, and tonight will see many of us on porches, observing each other through porch railings and potted plants.

Because these are the people in our neighborhood. 

Who are the people in your neighborhood? I would love to hear!

9 thoughts on “These are the People in My Neighborhood

  1. Love this especially having walked around a bit in your neighborhood. The ones I love best are the two beautiful kids in your pictures! We don’t know a lot of the neighbors here. I was sad when the Chinese family across the street moved away to Louisiana. Now there’s an older Chinese couple with a grown daughter there, and they seem to work all the time. Next to that house we have a young couple. He has a Turkish Dad and an American mother. He says, “My Dad wanted us to be really American so I don’t know why he gave me this Turkish name.” There is a Nepali family, refugees from Bhutan, down at the end of the street and an Iraqi family we’ve encountered a couple of times. We should meet more of them soon since one family is organizing a neighborhood cookout. There’s much more ethnic diversity now than when Tom and Terry moved here. The houses are mostly small, built in the 1930s or 40s so more affordable than the newer developments. We like our neighborhood, and just need to get better acquainted while the nice summer weather is here. It won’t happen in the winter!

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    1. I agree – in the winter it all closes up and feel so sad. The only time that people interact then is when shoveling, and often it gets mean. I love that there will be a neighborhood picnic. How fun! I’ve wanted to doa block party, but evidently every single person on the street has to agree and sign. Too much regulating

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  2. …and in our neighborhood, among the African Americans, Africans from Africa, Vietnamese, South Americans and south Asians, last night we watched a car pull up (ordinary sedan), and 10 people climbed out, including one lady who would appear to be 10 months pregnant with twins… And they all said, “Hi, Mr. Brown! Hi, Mrs. Brown!” Just another Sunday afternoon in the neighborhood.

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  3. My street has no outlet, just a shortened turn-around. All are single-family structures. It’s semi-rural. All the lots are large, filled with shade trees or veggie gardens. Almost everyone has dogs, including myself. One neighbor is very pregnant, and we are having record-breaking heat. I feel for her. Another couple spend hours, especially on the weekends, tending their vegetable garden. They like to give away the excess via their red rider vintage wagon. I am hoping for a few Creole tomatoes if they survive the heat. Unlike my old New Orleans neighborhood, this street is not diverse in ethnicity or color. Sometimes the overwhelming whiteness is blinding, but if you look close, we are diverse in other ways. Some are Katrina refugees who left after the storm. Others have roots here for generations. The lane behind my house is more interesting – the 3 small wood houses are old, inhabited by poorer folks. Most of that lane is lined with oak, pine, magnolia, and of course, poison ivy. Most days in this torrid July heat, that lane is the only place that has the semblance of coolness.

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    1. I love this Laurie! So fun hearing about your neighborhood. I also appreciate your reminder that so much diversity is under the surface. Time to take a trip to New Orleans. Good luck on getting those tomatoes!

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