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Kathy Bohannon Columnist

Published Friday, March 08, 2013

The city life: Looking beyond the front steps

Ninja Man and I live in a city in a planned development with a lot of houses and teeny tiny yards. It’s a dream come true for me because I love simple things like picket fences and having a sidewalk to walk along.

When the kids were little we lived in Moreland. Raising them in the country meant tall trees surrounding our rustic home. There were woods all around and a long gravel driveway that stretched out beside a cow pasture. We would see our neighbors at the schoolhouse during the week or in church on Sunday. It was the quiet country life and, according to the kids, a perfect way of life to grow up in.

We picnicked in the woods that surrounded our house. We put G.I. Joes in dirt bunkers. We climbed trees. We made fairy furniture out of sticks and placed tiny living rooms among mossy carpets nestled deep in the woods. Though I longed for a neat-as-a-pin, low maintenance piece of property, I loved raising the kids as we did. It was good for them and though we really never planned to leave, I dreamed of on day living in a little house in a sweet neighborhood, yards neatly trimmed and friends stopping by.

With the move to Savannah several years ago, my dream finally came true. We live in a tiny cottage on a postage stamp lot, with neighbors close enough to lean over the fence and chat about the weather.

I love having neighbors nearby. I took the dogs for a walk in our neighborhood and barely got a block away from the house because it was a beautiful day and like me, many of my neighbors were also enjoying the brief reprieve from a long stretch of rain and cold winter temperatures. I stopped at the steps in front of my house to greet a neighbor strolling her baby. In a short while the two of us became five and time flew as our small group stood in front of my house visiting with one another, celebrating freedom from our winter caves. My walk didn’t go far at all.

It’s those dreary, gray, cold days that make me long for the walks in the neighborhood, especially ones like this that take me no further than my front steps.

My pastor calls it fellowship, and it’s something that soothes, encourages and inspires the empty nester in me.

And this fellowship thing doesn’t end at the sidewalk.

There’s a coffee shop a couple of miles down the road. Recently I arrived there about 30 minutes before I was scheduled to meet a friend. My plan was to have a salad and get a bit of reading done. Before my salad was brought to the table, I saw a friend who introduced me to a new acquaintance. As the salad was delivered, another friend stopped by my table. He sat down and we chatted for a while. I’d taken three bites when the scheduled friend arrived. An hour and a half and exactly five bites later, I packed my lunch up in a take out box and headed home. It was one of the best lunches I’d had in a while.

Sometimes I long for the country days, but it’s that desire to go back and start over, have my kids small again and read a story to them in that huge swing on the far left side of the porch. I want to make just one more set of fairy furniture and then dig out a G.I. Joe from his bunker in the dirt pile by the driveway. I want to climb a tree with my kids again. But they have kids of their own and by the blessed and natural process of things, they are independent and enjoying life as they should.

It’s a different day in a different house, with a different life, but that’s part of the beauty of this empty nest. And though this time around we know it’s not our forever home, for now the tiny cottage on teeny land is just right. It’s even better when the sun is overhead and a neighbor pauses to share a story or two.

As I open the blinds and greet the overcast winter day, I realize I can’t wait for the next splash of sunshine when I can put a leash on the dog and head out, even if it’s just the front steps.

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