When people in California hear that I was born in Nebraska, they assume I was raised on a farm, with cornstalks, cows and rolling plains. But as Eva Gabor once said, “I get allergic smelling hay.” I have rarely been on a farm; I grew up in Omaha, a city of 400,000 people then and 7,000,000 now.
There were neighbors on all sides. We shared a driveway with the Scrivners, who had cats. We had dogs. On the other side was Mr. Grimble, who snatched footballs, baseballs and frisbees if they came into his yard. He made up for this by giving out huge candy bars every Halloween.
Life All Around
I like hearing neighbors, with the exception of the fellow who played a disco Barbra Streisand album round the clock in a Hell’s Kitchen apartment I once sublet. The noise of the life of neighbors comforts me and lets me know that the world is spinning onward, in all its glorious detail and surprise.
At the start of the pandemic, last year around Memorial Day, our dear elderly neighbors, with whom we share a fence, were clearly distressed, like hundreds of thousands of other families. There was a toddler grandchild, Enoch, who needed daycare, a single mom who needed to work and disagreements as to how to handle this issue safely. The voices rose in anger and distress and I closed my windows to protect their privacy. Even with the windows closed, there was a thrum of despair, of fear and panic.
My husband and I took a hike to Mt. Hollywood on this Memorial Day, grateful to be together and take in the beauty and spectacle of the city of angels. We sat on our back porch sipping lemonade. We heard our neighbors greeting their grown children and their grandchildren; we heard the rise and fall of happy voices, the sighs of recognition, the comfort of the familiar. Little Enoch’s cousins brought out a game of cornhole, the same one we played when I was growing up in Nebraska. When Enoch threw a beanbag into the hole, everyone clapped and Enoch squealed with laughter. The sweetest sound ever; pure joy.
Kate Fuglei is an actress and singer who divides her time between Studio City and Brooklyn. She has appeared in over forty episodes of television, including most recently in one of the first episodes of STAR TREK/PICARD. She is a published author with two novels based on the lives of the physicist Enrico Fermi and the educator Maria Montessori. The greatest blessing in her life is her marriage to writer Ken LaZebnik and her two sons, Jack LaZebnik and Ben LaZebnik. They inspire her every single day.
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