The group on the corner.

What do you get when an Italian couple, an art teacher, a hunter, a couple of musicians and two salt of the earth southerners walk into a pandemic together? Well, if you live on a certain street in Houston, you get neighbors.

Not that we weren’t all neighbors before. We were. Old timers in our subdivision. Seen people come and go. Knew who lived in such and thus house before the people with the loud car did. Knew which neighbors scooped the poop and which didn’t. Knew whose kids took a path through the grass and whose didn’t. Knew each other to wave and to borrow a ladder and to drop off a Christmas cup towel and some cookies at the holidays. But, that’s it. And it worked. My dad always used to say people have things the way they have them because that’s the way they want them. Of course, my dad never lived through a pandemic. A world pandemic. The kind where they tell you to stay in your house and not go anywhere.

Remember those days? When we had all watched everything there was to watch on Netflix and were starting to go a little crazy? Every messy cabinet we had been meaning to get to had been gotten to. Every outside chore had been done. We had tried our hand at making homemade bread and sat through every hour of Tiger King and walked away embarrassed that we had. Something had to happen. And, in our neighborhood, it did.

It started one afternoon with our neighbors across the street. We were out getting the mail and they yelled, “Happy hour tonight at six. Bring your own chairs. Sit in your driveway. It’s happening!” So, we did.

Please know that my husband and I are not these type of people. We are nice, but not exactly friendly. If you are the same way you understand.

But, that night, we pulled our camp chairs out of the garage, dusted them off and plopped them on either side of our mail box. Our neighbors across the street did the same. So did the folks next door. And, for the next few hours we just visited. I don’t remember what we talked about that first night, but I know we’ve covered a lot since then. Politics-we all have different opinions. Movies–we all have different opinions. Music–boy, do we all have different opinions. We’ve set lanterns on fire and watched them float up into the sky. We’ve thrown hundreds of popcorn bags into the fire and cheered as they burned (don’t ask–it’s a thing.) We’ve cooked food together and had too much to drink together and dutifully looked at pictures of each other’s grandkids and offered up words like “adorable” and “the cutest”. We’ve even sang together. Granted, some of us are better than others, but it’s ok. As long as someone can carry the tune the rest of us will follow. Heck, we will follow even if nobody is carrying the tune. It doesn’t really matter, because in those moments we are having fun.

Remember that? The act of doing something for the sheer enjoyment? That’s what those nights have become. Those nights with their starry skies and bloodthirsty mosquitoes and the sound of laughter echoing off the walls of our houses. They are fun. They remind us to be human. To connect. To enjoy each other. They make the news headlines and the trauma we’ve all endured these past few years go away. For about three or four hours every Friday night everything is all alright.

And, I am happy to say, the official end of the pandemic hasn’t changed that. When they lifted the stay six feet away rule we brought our chairs a little closer. Now, everyone is in one driveway and still meeting. Over a year and a half later every Friday night that little crew drags their chairs out and sits and enjoys each other. Some things have changed. We added a ton of new people. Holidays and birthday celebrations have been added. And, I’m very sorry to report, my husband and I up and moved. The neighbors helped us and promised not to like the new people more than us and promised we would always have a spot around the fire.

That means a lot to me.

Knowing that if I’m ever in my beloved Houston on a Friday night around six-thirty I can drive to the corner of that cul-de-sac and find my neighbors. Find a lively conversation about which decade produced the best music or the best movie ever made or whether or not clean energy is ever going to take off. Find my friends. With everything the pandemic took from us it gave us that little group of people and I don’t want to ever forget what those nights meant to all of us. What they still mean.

I guess that’s why I’m writing this. In fact, I should have added myself to that list above. What do you get when an Italian couple, an art teacher, a hunter, a couple of musicians, two salt of the earth southerners and a writer walk into a pandemic together? I’ll tell you. You get life long friendships and you get this blog.

Here’s to you happy hour crew.

And here’s to the humid, co-vid, laugh-filled nights that made us a thing.

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