By Amy L. Hatch
Moving to Urbana was a crash-course in real estate and independence.
Just nine months before we packed up and moved to the Midwest, my husband and I bought our first house. It was a 1909 Dutch Colonial and we it found after months of searching under the watchful eye of the real estate agent who rented me my first apartment.
Mark is a careful shepherd with gorgeous blue eyes and a silver tongue, a dead ringer for Anderson Cooper in visage and demeanor both. He patiently helped us examine every available property in the city, pointing out ancient wiring and bad basements.
Finally we found “the one.” We fought hard for that house and after living there for a nanosecond, we were off to Urbana to find a new home.
It was hard.
I was reluctant, the housing stock didn’t meet my expectations and the three brutal days of exhausting showings in the high heat of July were disheartening. We finally settled on the home we still live in today, a half-built generic Colonial that met our minimum requirements.
The neighborhood is meant to be conducive to pedestrians, with the garages in the back, sidewalks and large porches in the front. I hoped for a street filled with small children.
Instead, everyone parks on the street (the driveways won’t accommodate two cars) and porches serve as a receiving area for UPS packages and fliers from the weed guy and the Chinese restaurant.
The blinds on every window are mostly closed. We do not have friends in our neighborhood—for that, I had to strike out on my own.
That’s why it was startling to hear a knock on the door Friday afternoon and to see our neighbor through the window. She’s a lovely young lady, we wave back and forth when we see each other coming in and out of the house through our back doors.
Here she was, at the front.
Henry rushed to open the door and there she stood, with a vase full of flowers.
“Hi!” she said. “I have so many flowers left over from work, I wanted to share them with you!”
I took the cold vase from her and held out my hand.
“That is so lovely!” I replied. “I’m Amy.”
“I’m Allison,” she said, and waved at my husband standing behind me. “Have a great night!”
And she was gone.
I put the vase of flowers on the living-room end table and every time I look at it I smile, heart filling with a strange kind of delight thanks to this gesture made by a stranger.
But she isn’t, really, a stranger. Allison sees me toss my garbage out the back door. She sees me traipse to the mailbox in my slippers. She hears me reprimand my kids when they forget to close the screen door in the morning, she hears their tiny voices telling me the intimate details of their school days as we tumble back home in the afternoon.
And just this weekend, I learned her name, after seven years.
When I moved to the Midwest I expected to see and be surrounded by silos. I never expected to live inside of one.