Ellen Byron / Post

Good Neighbors

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.

Dad - 1st Solo Nov 27 1951 in SNJ-WC10 (002)

A true American hero. Holly still has his bomber jacket! See below…

Holly

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.

My beautiful picture

Navy pilots being welcomed home. That’s Betsy in the white dress greeting her beloved Harry.

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.

Kimbriels

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?

 

 

17 thoughts on “Good Neighbors

  1. Great post, El, and loved the pix! I didn’t really have neighbors growing up, as our houses were too far apart, but I always wanted them. (Later I moved to NYC, and had plenty.) I’m not sure Robert Frost (a fellow New Hampshire-ite) cared for any neighbors at all. Funny that I have now returned to the land of stone walls. I want my NYC neighbors back!

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  2. I had interesting neighbors, but in a different way. My dad was an electrician and we lived fairly close to the tractor factories in Moline IL, so that some of our neighbors were factory workers, and all were blue collar–except the man next door, who perennially ran for County Clerk (and was always elected). His wife was an alcoholic who pitched her bottles into the backyard in the night, then would creep out and gather them in the early morning. She thought no one saw her. We later learned the dad was a drug addict! Lots of other interesting neighbors, too!

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    • Wow, Kay! Those are some interesting neighbors. When we lived in Queens (we moved when I was 10), I remember my parents talking about how the wife of the couple on one side of us had a lobotomy. My main memory is that they had no children but always had a cocker spaniel.

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  3. Sounds like great neighbors.

    While I was friends with a few neighbor kids, it was nothing like that. Many of the neighbors I grew up with still live near my parents. They just didn’t have kids my age I was close to.

    Probably the closest are some family friends who ranted the house next door to my parents when they first moved to town. They and my parents became very good friends, even when they moved a couple miles away. Now they’ve moved out of town.

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  4. For the next few months, my mom is my neighbor. I have a recent little one and she’s renting the house next door to give some extra support…and a wonderful reading buddy.

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  5. Our next-door-neighbor’s older son had a “shop” in their garage, where he did all sorts of things I didn’t understand with electronics, motors, and other doodads. Yes, he was one of those geeky kids who likely ended up making a ton of money working for Microsoft of Apple years later. But even though he was at least six years older than me, he’d let me come in and hang out with him while I worked on my models in his shop (I remember one of a Spitfire airplane, which he advised me to paint sky blue on the bottom, for camouflage, and another of Napoleon Solo jumping over a brick wall. Wish I still had that one.) I was fascinated with and enamored of that shop–what a magical place it was.

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  6. I moved a lot as a kid, but I still remember how my parents made instant friends with the neighbors. Seems it doesn’t happen quite so easily now, since everyone seems to hit that button on their garage door and disappear inside. I once ran into my neighbor at the library and we caught up there at the counter, realizing we hadn’t seen each other all winter!

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  7. Nice post — and pics, Ellen! Our dear next-door neighbors were like an extra set of grandparents to me. (Mavis and Rutherford — names I plan to use for characters in a book one of these days). I grew up playing with their grandkids and he always gave my sibs and me a silver dollar on our birthday, just as he did with his own grandchildren!

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  8. What a lovely post, Ellen! I had Ozzie and Harriet-type neighbors when I was a kid: a delightful older couple on one side who, after I moved out, never failed to check on my mom, and a family with a set of twins on the other side. Now we have the nod-and-wave thing with most of our neighbors, except for the couple next-door, who give our kids Popsicles in the summer. Good neighbors are the good-est!

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