We were welcomed to our new neighborhood sixteen years ago with cookies and cards and dog licks and sweet children’s hugs. Within a year, we were married, and just about everyone on our block came to the wedding. I remember the little Roesner girls playing limbo and dancing under the tent on the lawn at the Waverly Historic Mansion. I have a photo of Abbey, barely ten, her body bent backward like a yogi.
Lindsay, her sister, was seven or eight then and loved children. She was born to babysit and was always taking care of the neighborhood kids. I will never forget the day I found out I was pregnant. I told her I’d be needing a babysitter soon, and she said OK. About half an hour later, there was a knock at my front door. It was Lindsay. “Miss Leslie,” she asked shyly, “Do you mean you’re having a baby?” She was overjoyed and checked on my pregnancy often. When I miscarried, she cried. And when I got pregnant again, I waited until I was showing to tell her. She became our best babysitter.
We have shared birthdays and graduations and summer vacations with the Roesner girls. We’ve been to their ballgames and their recitals and their many graduation parties. I taught them to make mosaics (they’re good at it, too!) and bought them books and tools. Once, my husband brought out our black rat snake, and Abbey asked to hold it. The exact moment her father snapped the picture, the snake bit her chin. Abbey was so cool that she barely flinched. We don’t have a copy of that photo, but it’s on the bookcase at the Roesners’ house. The girls are in our wedding album; their graduation pictures are on our refrigerator. Lindsay graduated from Towson University last year and is now a nurse. Abbey graduated from School for the Arts, then Juilliard, then danced with Baryshnikov; she has danced in Canada and New York and all over the world. I wrote about their parents in my book.
These girls are the products not of a village (or a country or a world) but of parents who loved and nurtured them. I stood by and did my job as a neighbor, which was to let them in when it was cold and they’d forgotten their keys; to share cake and steamed crabs and potato salad; to lend books and borrow onions; to approve bedroom colors and ogle artwork, to cheer and rejoice and weep with them. Even so, I can’t help but think of them as my girls, as if I did anything more than love them.
Today, I got the Save the Date for Lindsay’s wedding, and I am verklempt for her all over again.