A wonderful benefit of pre-air-conditioned Mississippi was good neighbors. I remember listening at my open bedroom window in order to determine if my next-door neighbor was home. I would hear the rattle of dishes, or the purr of the washing machine. Then, I would walk out my back door and begin calling her as I approached the gentle slope which separated our yards. She would answer, talking me over the flower-lined path, around the sleeping cat, and up the steps to her kitchen door.
I learned many important life lessons from this lady. She fed me my first taste of fresh fish, and showed me how to remove the bones. She taught me how to eat ice cream without getting it on my shirt. From her I learned how to hold a kitten. One spring day she taught me the words to "You Are My Sunshine." Our less than show-stopping duet of that number is now fortunately hidden forever beneath numerous remodelings of her cozy kitchen.
She, and the rest of my neighborhood, tolerated my noisy attempts to become the next drummer for Elvis or the Beatles. When that job didn't materialize, I acquired a small AM radio transmitter, which would broadcast my voice and a phonograph over a short distance. This good neighbor and her family became my first radio audience.
We now have air-conditioning, nearly soundproof houses, fences, restrictive covenants, and other isolating barriers between our neighbors and us. We do not know the names of most of the other residents on our street. Sadly, the primary lesson our neighborhood children now learn from us is how to grow up to become curmudgeons.
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