Where everybody knows your name,
You wanna be where you can see,
You wanna be where everybody knows
In the basement of a row house, around the corner from where I grew up, was a tiny grocery store, run by Mrs. Bass. My mother didn’t drive and my father traveled during the week, so it was no big deal for Mom, the original Evelyn, to tell me to run to Mrs. Bass for some bologna (my favorite), or a can of peas (nobody’s favorite), or just a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes (unfortunately, my mother’s favorite).
But the point is, no one thought it unusual to send a little girl of six around the corner, nor did I have to take any money with me, because I could just tell Mrs. Bass to charge it and head for home.
In contrast, I was walking my daughter to her elementary school, which is all of a block and half away, until she was 10 years old. Even if we concede that I’m a worrywart, just about everyone in the world agrees that life ain’t what it used to be. Today we all think we need to watch our kids a lot closer than those days years ago when your mom opened the door at 8 in the morning and she didn’t see you again until suppertime. I’m not totally convinced that it was really a more innocent time, but we certainly believed that bad things couldn’t happen on Coldspring Lane.
In any case, that sense of familiarity, of a place where everyone knows your name, seems to have gone the way of rotary dial phones. The grownups on Coldspring Lane knew all the kids and would have certainly reported any serious misbehavior to the parents of an errant child. Today, I know my neighbors on either side of my house, but I only have a nodding acquaintance with the people across the street. Maybe it’s because I live in a metropolitan area where people move in and out faster than, as we say in these parts, a New York minute?
Sometimes I really miss that sense of familiarity. Other times, and maybe it’s because as I grow older I also grow more crotchety, I don’t want everyone to know my business anymore. There is an interesting variation on the neighborhood concept — one we couldn’t have forseen all those summer days ago. While I may not know everyone in my town, thanks to the Internet, I now have friends and can keep in close touch with people around the world. Writing Murder Off the Books helped me move into a new part of a virtual town. I may kvetch about all the promotion necessary to market a new book, but in truth, I treasure the opportunities I’ve had to meet new people, sometimes in person, often online. My neighborhood has grown exponentially larger. And while not everyone knows my name, Evelyn David, we’re working on it. I remember with great fondness the old friends on Coldspring Lane; but this new neighborhood is pretty swell.