Hmm. How to communicate how peaceful and quaint and small-town and time warp-y it is here in Camas?
Let's hit some highlights.
National Night Out
We were able to walk to this event at nearby Crown Park. The park was thick with families, the night was warm, and it was not a madhouse at all, despite the fact that hot dogs, chips, sodas, cotton candy, and sno-cones were provided free of charge. There were numerous free raffle prizes as well, many of which were packages of toilet paper. I suppose that's what happens when Target is your sponsor. There were also free bouncy things for the kids, a police car, a fire engine, and --wait for it-- an amphibious SWAT vehicle. I loved the fact that, though the evening was well-attended and festive, we didn't have to spend more than a few minutes waiting in line, and we didn't have to keep a death grip on the kids, lest they be swept away by the crowd.
Most of the folks in our neighborhood are either grandparents or they have kids significantly older than ours. This has the strange effect of making me feel like I'M a kid again, growing up in my old small-town neighborhood. This feeling was heightened one fine summer day when I was treated to the sights and sounds of our across-the-back-yard 11 year-old neighbor and her best friend practicing a dance routine while belting out a song at the top of their lungs. Wow, did that take me back.
Another neighboring house appears to have a hot tub party every night, though we are not totally sure; their house is one of few with a very dense privacy hedge. Every night we hear the sounds of garrulous conversation, loud laughter, the hum of the hot tub, and the hack of at least one very committed smoker's cough. I'm pretty sure I can hear the ice clinking in their glasses as well.
The Welcome Wagon
I was looking for community, and I got it. The neighbors behind us brought over a bag of frozen blueberries they had picked and a list of cheap/free things to do in Portland during the summer (museums with reduced entry fees, which theaters were showing free movies, etc.)
A woman walking her baby (the only baby I know of in the immediate vicinity) stopped to meet me in the driveway one day. She gave me the low-down on which cats belong to whom and who lets their dogs run loose. This seemed to be of primary importance.
Another neighbor stopped us as we went for an exploratory walk and was so effusively kind that I almost cried. She told us that some of the original homeowners on the street keep a list of everyone's names and phone numbers, and that once in a while everyone gets together. She showed up at our front door a few days later with a gift basket she had thoughtfully put together, along with a card containing her family's contact information in case we needed anything. The best item in the basket was a book on the history of Camas, chock full of photographs. That has become a prized possession in our house. Not least because of the picture of Mt. St. Helens erupting as seen from Camas.
Our neighbors across the street brought over delicious chocolate-chip cookies and a card with their phone number. All of this kindness has been very humbling. And very much appreciated.
The Yard Sale
Boy, howdy, I have only ever had two yard sales, and on both occasions I was completely floored by how much very personal information was freely volunteered. By the customers, that is. This time there was a woman who wanted our couch and chair but couldn't afford it until her disability check came. One woman considered buying some furniture but wasn't sure how things were going to be divided in her separation from her husband. One woman mentioned in passing what year her husband had died and that she had just moved in with her shopping companion and that they were going to sell things together from a space at the local antique mall. And there was much more. We met missionaries on home stay who were very concerned that I make some friends quickly, and a grrlish girl who bought a china cabinet because (insert girl's eye roll here) her HUSBAND really wanted one and she guessed (insert shoulder shrug here) he'd like it.
Best of all, the rest of the neighbors came to meet us. Some of them were sheepish that they'd waited so long. We met the city councilwoman from down the street and a VERY elderly man who was anxious to meet both of us and was disappointed that we didn't have any books for sale. Most memorable was the elderly couple who live on a pristine corner house across the street. The woman talked to me while Shaun went to chat with the man who was waiting for her in the car because his legs aren't working too well lately. "We just got married two weeks ago! I'm 80 and he's 89!" she crowed. "And we've been together for 10 years!" Turns out Shaun got the same story when he talked to the husband. I suspect they're getting a big kick out of sharing the details of their happy news.
So, there you have it. Or a lot of it. It's wonderfully quiet on our street. And you wouldn't believe how many baseball diamonds are sprinkled throughout the town, each more charming than the last. If I can just manage to make some friends, I think I'm gonna like it here.