Last Saturday, I faced a serious trial as a new home owner: first block party. We moved into our place late last summer, just after the annual block party and the local festival, so this would be our first real neighborhood event. I was wracked with anxieties and questions: What should I bring to the potluck? How early/late would people be hanging out outside? Should I set out some chairs in the front yard or stick with the bench up on our porch? Buy some sidewalk chalk for the kids? Make up some sun tea, or offer up home brew?
Credit: Ryan McGuire, Gratisography
My husband—who is undoubtedly the extroverted social butterfly of the family—would be off at work all day. And unlike many others on our block, we don’t have a kid or dog to help grease the skids of socialization. So I would have to do this all on my own. I am not kidding you when I say I lost sleep over it in the week leading up to the event. I almost considered making plans with friends so I would have an excuse to skip out.
Thankfully, I’d been reading This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live, by Melody Warnick. It’s basically a guide to fostering what the experts call “place attachment” in oneself. Warnick had moved many times as an adult and wondered why she didn’t feel at home anywhere. She began to think that maybe it wasn’t the places that were to blame but her lack of effort at becoming rooted. So she embarked on a series of “Love Where You Live” experiments and projects to see if she couldn’t convince herself to fall in love with her new home in Blacksburg, Va. Alongside this highly personal experience, she bulks up the book with copious studies and interviews with experts on placemaking, social science, and community building, making it widely applicable to home-seekers worldwide.
So there I was, loving reading this book, and absorbing all kinds of ideas on how I could invest in my community and get all kinds of great benefits in return. Investments like volunteering, eating/shopping locally, getting into nature and politics, and—wait for it—
…talking to my neighbors and attending block parties. OK, Warnick was not going to let me out of this one.
So. Moment of truth. On Saturday, I did do something sort of sneaky, in that I volunteered to smoke a pork shoulder and make tacos for the potluck. That gave me an excuse to be semi-social and outside all day without making my neighbors feel like they had to walk over and talk to solo ol’ me. This activity has the added benefit of producing delicious tacos, which I would later promise to make again next year at my neighbors’ urging.
And I’m happy to say it all worked out in the end. I found out that my neighbors are fun, warm people who care about their block and the people on it. And while the party was still going merrily along by the time my husband got off work and joined in, there wasn’t one taco left on the platter for him. Oh well, there’s always next year!