Carl White's Life in the Carolinas

A Stroll Through the Neighborhood
by Suzelle Sinclair
suzelle.sinclair@earthlink.net

“Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered,
as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”

~Fred Rogers

“Come on Gracie, we’re going for a walk.” While there are many amazing adventures across the Carolinas, our own neighborhood is a favorite. I know many of my longtime neighbors well, but there are so many new faces in our neighborhood. I usually make a point to visit new neighbors, welcoming them with a potted plant or other small gift. However, over the past year COVID restrictions have limited visits.

Of course everyone is new to Gracie, so she doesn’t discriminate in her greetings. She’s a pup with true Southern hospitality, and she fancies herself to be the president of the neighborhood social committee. As we begin our walk today, a car slows to a stop beside us. Ears perk and tail wags at the sound, “Gracie. I know that puppy. How ya doin’ girl?” It’s Miss Jill who lives at the far end of the street. She stops to chat until a car comes along behind her.

Gracie and I continue our walk. The neighborhood is abuzz with sounds this afternoon. Ahead we hear the sound of a lawnmower. It’s Mr. Dan, he throws up his hand and stops his mowing to come and say hello. “Hi Suz. Hi Gracie.” Gracie wags at the sound of her name. But then again, who doesn’t like being recognized and welcomed with a friendly and familiar greeting? Trekking on a little further, we pass Miss Karen out walking her sweet older pup, Pipper. Pipper is a fabulous mentor to Gracie. She is amazingly well-mannered and very patient with Gracie’s puppy energy.

By now, Gracie thinks everyone must know her, whether she has met them before or not. We encountered a new kid to the neighborhood. He just moved here from Massachusetts. Gracie approaches him with the same Southern charm and is, of course, irresistible. The young man approaches to pet Gracie and we have an opportunity to meet a new neighbor.

As we continue on our walk, we see Mr. Jim, Miss Chris, and another new neighbor, Miss Emily. The pandemic may have changed the way we live for a season, but it didn’t put a damper on Southern hospitality in our neighborhood.

The sun is setting as we head toward home. An evening breeze is blowing gently and the fireflies are beginning to light, welcoming the evening. It takes my mind to all the Southern summer traditions that I so enjoy. Helping my folks in the garden, sitting around the kitchen together enjoying homemade lemonade and snapping green beans. Inviting the neighbors over for a cookout. The folks in town all coming together to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July. And of course, chatting with neighbors on summer evening walks. All these activities are simply opportunities to develop relationships and build community. While lemonade, hot dogs or saying hello seem pretty simple, the role they play is critical. Building and maintaining a strong community is the best way to battle big challenges like the pandemic. When you are aware that you have neighbors that know you by name and care for you, it makes the challenges of life less stressful.

As we walk over the crest of the hill, we can see our house. Making our way through the fireflies on the front lawn and up the steps to the front door, I look down at Gracie, think about how proud I am of my sweet Southern pooch’s friendly nature, open the door and say, “Come on in Gracie, we’re home.”

Suzelle’s Famous Basil Lemonade (basil optional)

 

Ingredients                                                                                                                         

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice (6 large lemons)

1 cup of hot water

1/2 gallon of water

1 lemon, sliced

Optional: a couple of sprigs of fresh basil or fresh mint

 

Directions

In a small sauce pan place the 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar and (optional ) the fresh basil or fresh mint. Boil the water until the sugar dissolves and the basil or mint becomes limp. Use a strainer and pour the simple syrup into your lemonade container. Add lemon juice, and 1/2 gallon of water. Serve the lemonade in a glass over ice and garnish with a slice of lemon. For the ultimate enjoyment of lemonade, invite a neighbor over to share a glass.

CHARLOTTE WEATHER