August 3, tonight, was National Night Out.
In Tacoma, there are organized block parties and gatherings at places like the Boys and Girls clubs. The idea is that if people know their neighbors and own their streets, crime goes down.
Neighborhoods seem to run in cycles here. Young couples with babies or little kids move in, the kids go to school, grow up, leave for college and the older couple moves out and is replace by a young couple with kids.
My youngest daughter and her pals across the street are college age now. My grandkids come to my house almost every day, to ride bikes, chalk on the sidewalk, play games out side and the usual summer stuff.
Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve seen neighborhoods change radically. I as a child of the 50’s with stay-at-home moms, bread vans and milk delivery and the Fuller Brush Man, ice cream trucks and lots and lots of neighborhood kids. We walked to school together, we went to scout or campfire girl meetings after school, walked home through neighborhoods we knew and played until dark. Those were my California days, up to the time I was ten.
When we moved to Tacoma about 15 years ago, I thought we’d find that sort of a neighborhood. We didn’t so much. Kids are driven to school or catch a bus, they go to daycare after school, do organized sports and come home to eat dinner and go to bed. We were incredibly lucky to find a like-minded family across the street, and kids that wanted to play flash-light hide and go seek on summer nights, ride bikes, go to the zoo, and just hang out and play legos or Playmobil at my house.
My grandkids haven’t been so lucky in finding neighborhood friends. So my grand-daughter made up flyers and rode around on her bike, putting them under doormats or insides screen doors. “National Night Out. Go for a Walk and Meet your Neighbors. Come by the corner of N.28th and Mullen for cookies in our yard. Kids welcome!”
And tonight, we set up a card table in the front yard, and put out jump ropes and sidewalk chalk and bubble stuff and wands. We baked brownies and chocolate chip cookies and snickerdoodles. We set out the plates and sat down on our front steps to wait. We’d said we’d be there from 6 to 8.
People jogged past. Someone walked their dog past. We had our chalkboard out with a sign that said National Night Out and Cookies! But no one stopped and at 6:15 I was having a very bad feeling.
But then people with kids started to arrive. And it was great! Some we knew but had schedules that didn’t jive with ours. Others were strangers, from just half a block away, kids we had never seen! We met older couples whose kids had grown up, and a couple of near babies with their moms. Kids stayed and played. Bubbles everywhere and someone bought a Nerf gun, and bikes and scooters were racing on the sidewalk. It was great. Then we hit the jackpot, with a girl just up the street that we hadn’t met because she wasn’t supposed to cross the street alone.
Unless, of course, she is coming to our house now! A new friend who is home most of the summer! Perfect!
I think this is the best thing we’ve done all summer. And I think that even the kids who have really busy schedules may find some time to wander down and play here. And I now know quite a few more of my neighbors, so that worked out well for me as well.
Happy National Night Out! I hope you did something great in your neighborhood too.