So far, nearly everywhere we have moved, we have had really lovely neighbors. In Southern California we lived next door to an adorable young couple from whom I learned exactly how large a petite woman can get when she is 9 months pregnant, and from whom Dave learned how to lay down beats. We spent our last night in Bako sitting on their living room floor, exchanging musical tastes and making lists of places we wanted to visit someday.
In Tilburg we resided down the hall from an adorable family of four: two little daughters, a bespectacled father who seemed to play the Mr. Mom role, and an unnervingly tall mother who we both saw naked at various points throughout the season due to their lack of drapes and her lack of…clothes? Dave always practiced his Dutch with them in the elevator, which was undoubtedly poorly pronounced and grammatically challenged, especially to the ears of children. Even at 4 and 6-years old they were polite enough to smile and nod (what a universal expression of confusion that is) then look to their father for clarification. They did typical neighborly things, like lending us tools and accepting poorly baked goods as a token of our gratitude. On December 5th, Sinterklaas Day in Holland (an incredibly non-PC and Santa-esque holiday), they went above and beyond, showing us the true heart of the sometimes hard-shelled Dutch. During the night, our neighbors/Sinterklaas left treats on our doorstep…a typical wooden Christmas decoration, a set of tools (probably so they could stop eating my baked goods) and a traditional almond pastry. All the presents were wrapped carefully and left with a note explaining where they came from. So lovely! When we reciprocated by leaving the girls presents in honor of our own Christmas Eve tradition, two pajama clad elves ran loudly down the hallway to thank us in carefully rehearsed English. Adorable!
This year our building is a bit quieter than in years past. The other apartments are filled with either a) elderly couples who struggle up the stairs with more gusto than I ever have or b) Vietnamese families who have a penchant for karaoke on Sunday mornings. Everyone is friendly, everyone throws out a Guten Morgen or a Hallo when it is socially appropriate and everyone is in love with Falcor. The children who live in the most avid-karaokeing family directly below us find him particularly fascinating. They are friendly and clean and no louder than normal children, so we’ve never had the heart to stomp on the floor when “I Would Do Anything For Love” or “My Heart Will Go On” sung in off-key child-singing starts pumping through the floor. But there is a limit to any person’s patience when it comes to poorly executed early 90’s karaoke. And I had nearly reach mine until…
The doorbell rings. I suspiciously look through peephole, only to see the girl from downstairs staring directly back into the hole. I open the door. She hands me a box. She says ‘For you,’ in the cutest little accent that those two syllables allow. I said ‘Danke’ and she ran back down the stairs, giggling all the way. I went into the kitchen, set the box on the counter and opened it. As it turns out these neighbors rule over all other neighbors up until now, because she came bearing FRUIT! Glorious, pre-cut, exotic fruit that I couldn’t even name here. (It should be mentioned that this family owns a green grocery downtown) I love fruit. A lot. And I love it even more when someone else has cleaned it, sliced it and presented it to me on a platter. Literally.
The karaoke loving family has a reprieve. For now. Keep the platters coming and throw in some more of those mushy orange things next time.