I'm sitting here listening to the babysitter next door play the concertina. Just one of the many fun things about where we live.
Now, in Orange County (NC) terms, where we live isn't fancy. In fact, it would be difficult to find a house in Chapel Hill itself that is in the price range ours is. It's not one of the new fancy "walkable" neighborhoods (though lots of people walk in our neighborhood - it doesn't need to be fancy to get a good walk) with town centers and organic grocers. But it's a wonderful neighborhood, and mostly because of the people.
In general, we've always had good neighbors, but our court is special. Now that the weather's gotten nice, the kids run back and forth from yard to yard. I've gotten used to our younger son running in to ask if he can go to a different yard or to the park with a friend's family. He's on the younger end of the group that run around, but the older boys are pretty patient with him. For a child who considers himself to be shy, he spends a lot of time with friends. Our older children also have longtime friends up the street (of the ten houses on the court, seven have children).
The babysitter has switched to the tin whistle (even a piece we recognize!). I love listening to live music - even when it's not a formal concert. It probably comes from spending time in music schools and practice rooms - it's a very enlivening sound. But it leads me to one of the things that the people on our court have in common. They all spend a lot of time with their kids. This has led to various household situations - the neighbors with the babysitter have arranged their work schedule so that they only need a babysitter in the afternoon. One mother cares for other children in her home, another has family who help out when she's got classes, and another writes in the evening when her kids are asleep.
But , it's not just in the child care arrangements. The parents get outside and do things with the kids - and, of course there's a lot of conversation among parents. I try to make sure I'm not too busy in the afternoons to go out and say hello (though that doesn't always work). And they're all really interesting people. With how spread out our society gets, it's nice to be able to just walk out the door to have a good conversation rather than having to get in the car (again).
There's a new neighborhood being built a few miles from here. It's a ring of houses on large (3-5 acre) lots spread out around a field. There was one lot we would look at - on a bit of a rise where it would catch the last of the evening sun. It had lots of southern sunshine for gardening and to keep us cheery in the winter. But, we never even looked into the neighborhood because we wouldn't want to move unless we could take our neighbors with us (and, when I found out later by accident, it turns out that the houses there will cost almost twice what our current one did).
We often go out and take walks in our neighborhood; it's one of our main forms of exercise. We've met a lot of neighbors that way also. It's a pretty neighborhood to walk around. The houses aren't fancy like in many new developments, but the neighborhood has something better. The land was all covenanted so that the builders couldn't take down too many trees. The builder who built our house normally plows down all the trees in their neighborhoods, but there are lots of beautiful trees left in ours. By the time the summer starts, and all the trees fill in, most of the houses on the court disappear. But that's okay - the kids and parents are still outside, chatting, riding bikes and scooters, or having water balloon fights (I make sure that we always have a good supply of water balloons). I sometimes feel like, in some ways, we're raising our kids in another era. It's a good feeling.