September seems to be my month with two-year-olds, literally and figuratively, and although I find it rather strange, it is endearing at the same time. Most of my friends are in my age range (50s and 60s), give or take a few years, but the common denominator we have is our children are all in their 20s and above. Many of us have absolutely nothing to do anymore with toddlers, unless of course they have recently been promoted to grand-parenting. If I receive an invitation to a birthday party at all these days it is for a 50th, 60th or beyond, or a new category that I have recently been promoted to: jubilees. In the same manner, the invitation to weddings is rarity in this age bracket, unless it is the second, third or fourth marriage. Mostly I get called or notified about a funeral, which is rather depressing and drives home the point of how short life really is.
So when I received an invitation from my neighbour to a birthday party of her two-year-old daughter at the beginning of the month, I was surprised and at a loss. It had been at least 18 years since my last party for a two-year-old and I had to really think back to my own daughter’s celebration to figure out the gift. One thing hasn’t changed over the years: the odd mix of cake, chips, and candy, coupled with tired parents and hyperactive toddlers. This made me count my blessings for being way beyond this stage in life already! Not even my cats are two-year-olds! I felt old all of a sudden.
Last Sunday, right in the middle of an exciting chapter of mystery I was reading, the doorbell rang, just when the main protagonist in the book was going over the burned corpse with the pathologist. Even the cats frowned at the unexpected interruption. I opened the door and there was my other neighbour with one of her two-year-old sons handing me a bright red apple. The twins like knocking at my door to take a peak a the cats from time to time and their reaction is priceless. Mother and son had a basket full of apples and were sharing them with the neighbours in the building, explaining that they had just returned from apple picking the day before.
My father-in-law once told me that good friends are important to have in life, but good neighbours are even more important. I am surrounded by wonderful neighbours and for that I am grateful. With the except of one of them whom I choose to refer to as friend rather than neighbour, none of them have any idea of the greater role they really play in my life at the moment. Each rung on the ladder I seem to be climbing all the time now while re-building my life is essential, and my neighbours are all there with me, evenough though it is all unintentional. The two-year-olds remind me of how important it is to pass on essential values to the next generation, how little things like sharing apples or petting cats really do matter, and more importantly, learn to look at life again through the eyes of young children – fresh, eager to learn, and believe in the inherent goodness of others.