Maybe Neighborliness Isn't so Old-Fashioned After All

by ParentCo. April 03, 2017

egg in hand

Sometimes I feel nostalgic for a vanished past I’ve only read about in novels, when milk and cream were delivered straight from the farm, and the kitchen always smelled of warm soup and fresh-baked bread. But I’m a millennial mom. I juggle motherhood with writing and would rather simmer a plot than a pot. Recently, though, I found myself in a strange predicament – for a modern mom. It was late afternoon. Our babysitter had gone home, my three-year-old was napping, and I was frantically trying to whip up an “easy, one-egg” birthday cake for my husband and revise a magazine pitch at the same time. I had just finished creaming the butter and sugar – and unjamming the printer – when the phone rang. I picked up on the first ring. It was Jack, our friend, calling to wish my husband a happy birthday. “You actually answered the phone!” he said in surprise. (I usually screen my calls during the day when I’m working.) His words startled me. Maybe I’d slipped into a time warp – answering the telephone without screening my calls and baking cakes (even in my good-old-days fantasies, my husband or mom is the one actually doing the baking). Jack and I talked for a while about the days when we were carefree and childless. After we hung up, I went back to my cake and made a chilling discovery. My husband had scrambled the last egg for breakfast. Unless I acted fast, my easy one-egg cake was doomed. My husband would be home soon, I wanted to surprise him with the cake. I needed an egg, and I needed it fast. As I stood in the kitchen with a spatula in my hand, a strange thought dawned on me. I, a modern millennial, was going to have to borrow an egg. Running next door for an egg or a cup of sugar is the kind of thing moms did in the 50s sitcoms I used watched on Nick at Nite when I was growing up. It was the kind of thing any mom might have done in those post-war years, when most women stayed home while their husbands took the family car to work. I was trapped in a 50s time warp in 2017. What would I do next? Put on a silk shirtwaist and high heels and start vacuuming like the mom on “Leave it to Beaver”? Instead, I reached for my cell to call Jen, our next-door neighbor. But then I remembered. Jen was at work. In fact, most of the women in my neighborhood have jobs. And even if they don’t work outside the home, their lives are crammed with commitments and activities. They aren’t exactly standing around their kitchens, waiting for someone to borrow an egg. I went to the window and peered out. The houses looked empty, the street deserted. Modern suburbia, I reflected, was a country forsaken, a land without people. Even I wasn’t home the way those 50d TV moms were. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d done something as housewifely and archaic as putting on an apron. As I stood gazing out the window, wondering what I could use as an egg substitute (Silly Putty? Play Doh?) I saw Mike, our next door neighbor, open his back door to let the dog out. We had moved into the neighborhood only recently, and I didn’t know Mike and Jen that well. But now, as I stood looking out the window, I remembered Jen mentioning that they had converted their family room into a home office for Mike. So there was someone home next door! Jen had given me their home number when we met, so I called Mike on my cell. He answered right away. I explained my predicament and apologized for my old-fashioned request. He was very understanding and handed me the egg cheerfully over the fence that separated our yards. “Thanks!” I said. “I’ll return it soon!” My day, and my cake, were rescued – not by a woman in an apron and high heels, but a man with a dog and a laptop. This sounds embarrassingly retro, but as I hurried back home with the egg, I felt as pleased, as if I had laid it myself.



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