My Changing Neighborhood

The neighborhood where I now live was once known for its homes of DuPont’s middle management—the managers and supervisors. Higher management, the directors, lived in more upscale neighborhoods. Top management, the presidents and vice-presidents, lived on their estates in the nearby town of Greenville where all favored a recognized faded shade of green that was called “Greenville green.” It looked much like the faded Wimbledon green.

Only now, am I realizing how strict this stratification was. It would be unthinkable to have a director live in our neighborhood, let alone a president or vice-president.  When our friend moved up the corporate ladder to become CEO of Hercules, he moved from a local neighborhood to someplace more appropriate in the distant, but trendy, Chads Ford area. The distance to work everyday is farther and through the worst traffic along Concord Pike, but that’s where the executives live.  He really had no choice. The only good part was when he was planning the purchase of another company that had to be kept secret. He had everyone involved secluded at his house, including secretaries and clerks, for several days, even having lunch delivered. (He didn’t last long as CEO.  The office politics at that level are brutal .  . . and he was one of the good guys.)

Neighborhoods in Delaware are housing developments. We are not divided up into boroughs with their own local governments, as in Pennsylvania, where when one municipality ends, another begins. Here in Delaware, most of us live only under county government. If we call the police, the county police show up (in a pinch, the state police would come out, but that would be unusual). This makes sense because the entire population of all of Delaware is less than one million, about that of Upper Darby.

One of our newspaper writers once said that the FBI terrorist list has more names than the population of Delaware.  That means, travel around the country and you are more likely to run into a terrorist than a resident of Delaware.

If someone asks where I live, I would say, “Sharpley,” but this is only a housing development. Adding to the confusion, our mail is addressed to Wilmington, but it goes through the Tallyville post office. Talleyville only consists of a firehouse and the post office, and maybe a few houses. It sort of exists on Concord Pike, but has no official boundaries I am aware of, and I live there!

Sound confusing? Yes, it is. Does it matter? Not much.

Anyway, only widows lived in the houses on both sides of us for over 30 years. Their husbands had been DuPont employees. Now the widows have died, too, and their children have sold the houses. The same story has occurred all up and down our street. The neighborhood is becoming one of young families.  Many driveways are covered in chalk scribbles and children’s drawings.

We were excited to get new neighbors, but they were not what we expected. They are very nice, but not the normal Brady-Bunch families we were used to. (Not even a live-in maid.)

On one side are two girls perhaps in their early 30s. Both work part-time as substitute teachers. I assume they are lesbians. One is Caucasian, the other Filipino. Last year, the Caucasian was pregnant, and eventually gave birth to a delightful boy who is obviously half Asian, half Caucasian, just like my own two sons, but we rarely see him. Evidently, he spends most of his time in daycare. I don’t think my wife has ever seen him. How his mother got pregnant in the first place, I have no idea. They didn’t say, and I certainly didn’t ask.

On the other side, our new neighbor is a very secretive 30-something single girl who we rarely see. I think she travels a lot for her job. I also think she has a boyfriend, and she stays at his house most weekends. I used to see his car, but I don’t know if he is a coworker or a real boyfriend, or even significant. I once had a theory that he was a coworker who sometimes left his car at her house while they drove together in her car to the Philadelphia Airport. Any story could be true. When she comes home from work, she opens the garage door from her car, drives right into the garage, closes the garage door behind her, and goes into the house from inside the garage. If I blink, I miss her.  She never has visitors. She never sits out in her yard. She hires crews for yard work and snow removal. But from the few times I have talked with her, she is perfectly pretty and pleasant.

The guy living behind us has been living there since we moved in over 50 years ago, but his health was failing and he sold the house to a young couple with two daughters about three or four. I talked with the husband once.  They are almost never home.  They moved from downstate Delaware.  They may have kept their house there and are only flipping this house.  We’ll see.

So, bottom line, I am surrounded on three sides with people I know virtually nothing about. They are all pleasant, but very different from the families I knew from my grandfather’s East Lansdowne house, my parent’s Lansdowne house, and my previous Delaware houses. There, we knew the families up an down our street. We  knew where they worked, we knew where they vacationed. we knew their children. We even knew when their marriage was breaking up.  I kid you not.

Maybe it is me, or more precisely, my age. Maybe I am seen as the old guy who has nothing to interest a young couple.  Maybe I have become that old, complaining neighbor who yells at children crossing his yard.  But I never yell at children.  I am glad to see them, even in my yard. Welcome, kids! Chalk up my driveway as much as you want.


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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