When we made an offer on our house at the end of April, we moved pretty quickly (okay, that’s an understatement), and did not have time to research the neighborhood. Our realtor, Robert Pursell of Sotheby’s, did not say much about this particular area, as he did with some of the other houses/areas where we looked at properties. However, he certainly would have told us if there were any issues here.
The neighborhood seemed nice enough, particularly in the 12-house development where we are located. The houses on the other side of the street are nicely maintained, although a few years older. One house behind us features columns and a huge Venus de Milo statue out front; a Greek family lives there. It seems a bit out of place, but at least it looks nice. Anyway, I bring all this up because we moved up here without knowing anyone, or knowing anything about our neighborhood. And we didn’t even think twice about it until the day we moved in.
On our first day here (the day before the movers actually brought our things) we were unloading a few things and waiting for deliveries, installations, and the like. On one of my trips outside, a neighbor spotted me and immediately came over to introduce himself. John and I chatted in the middle of the street for ten minutes, without a car even coming by. Turns out John is retired now, but had driven from Napa to Pleasanton every day for at least ten years in order to be able to live in this wonderful area. He gave me an idea of what to expect on my commute. He also told me a bit about our neighbors, and I learned that it’s quite a diverse neighborhood. (Fairly white, but very diverse.) Within 150 yards of us are several retired folks, folks with grade school kids, folks with high schoolers, a couple with an adult child at home, a couple of lesbian households, an Orthodox Rabbi and his family, two houses of folks who work at the French Laundry, and more. And over the first 48 hours in our house, many of them stopped by to introduce themselves and bring us wine or baked goods.
We were stunned.
Now, we have both lived in neighborhoods before, and we had come to know a few of our neighbors over time, but neither of us had ever experienced a welcome quite like this. People would be driving down the street, see us, stop, turn off the engine, and come chat. I remember talking to Laurie later that first weekend and we could not get over how nice and outgoing and welcoming they had all been, and how unexpected it was, since we hadn’t even considered this aspect of living here. It was heartwarming, and gave us confidence that we had made a great decision to relocate.
During that first weekend, one neighbor spent half an hour helping me with my garage door, and had printed out instructions for me from his PC. On Monday (Memorial Day), we were invited to a barbecue which was attended by several neighbors. On hearing that we were having water pressure problems in our shower, one neighbor left the party, went home, and returned with his plumber’s name and phone number. And another family came over, introduced their daughter to us, and asked if we had any pets that needed taking care of. (Not yet!)
Since then we’ve had referrals to gardeners, electricians, grocery outlets, restaurants and the like. And not a day goes by without someone waving from across the street or shouting out a hello. It’s all so “neighborly.” And wonderful.
As far as I can tell, at the root of this “unusual” behavior is the fact that all these people at some point made a conscious decision to live here. None of them were born and raised in Napa; they moved here, many for the same reasons we did. Several folks still work in San Francisco or the East Bay, and commute daily. They pay the commute price in order to realize the benefits of living in such a beautiful, peaceful place. (And let me say a word about “peaceful”: I have never lived anywhere so quiet. At night we don’t hear a sound for hours at a time. No trains, no sirens, no BART cars, no animals, and no traffic. It is eerily quiet until the newspaper gets delivered around 4:30am. We are sleeping like babies, which is great.)
This past Saturday, two different people made admonishments to us about the fact that we now live in Napa. Lin, our host at the Swanson Winery tasting room, put it best: “Most people here work very hard in order to live in this wonderful place. Now that you are residents, don’t take for granted, not even for a day, how fortunate you are to live here.” Strong words, but we got the message.
So I realize this post has rambled a bit, but it is hard to put the feeling into words. The vibe here is different from the bay area. The people are warm, outgoing and genuine, and they have made us feel welcome. They have encouraged us to be the same. (My kids already think I am too outgoing!) We will be better neighbors because the bar has been set high. What an unexpected benefit of making the move.
Epilogue: After I finished writing this Monday evening, I went out to take a quick photograph of the street to accompany this entry, while Laurie finished cooking dinner. Thirty minutes later she came looking for me, because I had become engrossed in conversations with two separate neighbors out on the street. It’s that kind of place. We are excited for our friends to come visit and see for themselves.