Robert Frost once wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” To paraphrase him in the clunkiest way possible, good neighbors also make good neighbors. And for years growing up, my family was blessed with great neighbors: the Kimbriels.
We moved to Scarsdale, a New York City suburb, when I was ten. Not long after that, the Kimbriels moved next door: Dad Harry, Mom Betsy, and their five kids, twins Holly and Scott, Todd, Sheryl, and Hank. They were the most exotic family I’d ever met, in that they were a classic American family, the polar opposite of my high drama ethnic mix of Jewish and Italian. Harry and Betsy were from Omaha. Harry was a Marine who eventually joined the Navy and became a pilot. He was an American Airlines executive when we knew him, inspiring my lifelong, sometimes misguided, devotion to that airline.
A true American hero. Holly still has his bomber jacket! See below…
Here she is in the jacket, which she wore when she flew at an air show in the same B-17 her dad piloted in the 1950s. AND that’s the exact plane he flew! It’s been restored.
At the end of a long workday, Harry and Betsy would sit down to cocktails, just like in the movies. If a voice was ever raised in the Kimbriel house, we never heard it. Their home was so gracious and civilized, especially compared to my house which, while wonderful in its own way, was basically five people running around in various states of hysteria.
That’s me, Hank in the red shirt, Holly, and my brother Tony. We’d wander over to each other’s houses on holidays and hang out a little.
The Kimbriels didn’t have a perfect life, of course. As with any family, they had their ups and downs. But a constant through the years was our families’ affection and respect for each others. My mother adored Betsy. Adored her. And in Betsy’s quiet way, she adored my mom right back. Holly and I shared a friendship where even when distance made the flame flicker, it never burnt out. I think our current friendship, while shared through emails and Facebook posts, is stronger than ever.
Betsy and Harry both passed away at far too young an age. I remember my mother calling me in tears after learning her dear friend Betsy was gone. We were all equally heartbroken when Hank, the youngest Kimbriel died in a tragic accident. Then, a few months ago, the world lost Holly’s twin, Scott. We weren’t the only ones who thought Scott was a great guy. United States Congressman David Trone paid tribute to him on the House floor.
I’ve been blessed with a lifetime of good neighbors. Some live on in memories, others as lifelong friends. But as the years pass, I’ve come to believe that the neighbors of our childhood hold a special place in our hearts. Like the Kimbriels do in mine.
Readers, do you have fond – or not so fond! – memories of neighbors?