Wonderful neighbors

What should my first St. Louis entry be about? The gates of the title, blocking any neighborhood short cut? The 1904 World’s Fair, which clearly defines our city? The arch, biggest gate of all? Soulard farmer’s market? Wash. U., that enticed us here in the first place? Missouri Botanical Gardens? Forest Park, with its free art museum and zoo? Shaw gardens, half an hour out of town, where we went to see the daffodils today? No, no, no, it will be the best of all about St. Louis: wonderful neighbors.

Friends and colleagues are great, but neighbors are there day and night. Good neighbors lend each other rakes and shovels, a cup of flour, or a couple of eggs. Great neighbors are there when you want to chat, in the yard when you are. They know where to go in the neighborhood. They let you know if there is a problem with your home.

This sunny Sunday we had chats with both neighbors across the alley, discussing the finer points of weed, stick, and leaf disposal. We admired the 10-year-old girls that had painted themselves green, too late for St. Patrick’s day. Jay next door cleared up some leaves that were probably our responsibility. Pam told me when the next book club would meet. We had lunch and dinner outside, listening to the neighborly chatter of people and robins.

And then we had a problem. I was upstairs happily cleaning up some accounts, when Dave called from downstairs, letting me know we had a crisis and it involved water. He heard the gurgling, then saw it was flooding Danny’s bedroom, dripping into the basement and landing on the couch down there. We opened the radiator case lid and saw the break: a radiator leak.  Dave ran to get towels, and I ran outside for the social solution. Pam next door was outside, and so was Carol, a house past Pam. Carol got her husband Roger who knew just what to do. He went in the basement and turned off the furnace. Then he opened the faucet that would drain all the hot water heaters. Water gushed out. He helped us carry the radiator cover box outside, where we left it.  He taught us what to think about all those mysterious pipes in the basement ceiling, some with valves, some not.

The leaking water heater

We mopped up the water, moved the rugs and pillows, and will wait for help on Monday, glad we have neighbors there in a crisis! St. Louis, we love you! But I have to end with true nostalgia for our Birch Street neighbors who stepped in so many times with help and companionship, especially Jocelyn and Anthony, right next door, but also Judy and David, whose son was our son’s best friend, wise Miriam, Cheryl who sold our house, and many others.


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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