Sunday, February 3, 2008

Rolling the Dice

Seven years ago, I made my home on a tattered hillside, amongst mature magnolia trees and slippery moss covered steps. The driveway was rocky and steep - hard to get up, especially in the rain. An older couple with an overgrown oak tree and lonely labradors overlooked our back yard and our home loomed over an empty lot owned by a neighboring octogenarian. No street lights lit the crooked street at night and no sidewalks paved our steps to a neighbor's house. I was a newly married woman busy with my career and my commute.

Shortly after we moved in, a neighbor knocked on my door to invite me to play Bunco, which the neighborhood women played once a month. Being the shy and hermitish sort, I made an excuse. Eventually, I gave in and gathered with the local ladies to play. Bunco, if you do not know it, is a simple game played with three dice. You work your way from 1 to 6 and try to roll as many 1's, 2's and so on as possible. We played in two teams of two per table. You'd pair up with the woman across from you, whomever that was, and play until the timer went off. The team with highest score would stay put and the "losers" would rotate to the next table. Neighbors took turns hosting and refreshments were mild - a plate of cookies, some wine. We each put $5 in a till at the beginning of the night and the person with the highest score at the end of the night took home the kitty. The biggest loser got their $5 back.

Women of all ages and backgrounds came to our Bunco games. I was just as likely be to set across from a retired nurse as a young mother of twins as an eighty year old still living in her girlhood home as the city grew up around her. The game spawned a couple true friendships but more so, a sense of belonging, of knowing who lives on your street - what their dining rooms look like, what kind of food they serve, what their hobbies are.

I now live in a neighboring city. Our schools are lauded as some of the best in the area. The houses sit close, bordered with straight and smooth sidewalks, precisely mowed lawns and measured flower beds. At night, bright street lights glow. It is a short walk to downtown, the library, and the local Starbucks (both of them). My lot is flat, my driveway easy to maneuver. I know my adjoining neighbors and the elderly woman across the street. I wave to a few other folks on the block but know neither their names nor what their homemade cookies taste like.
Here, we socialize strictly by category. The mothers with school aged children talk. The parents of college aged kids talk. The empty nesters talk. And, as far as I can tell, no one talks to the old woman across the street.

How much might my neighborhood - or yours - benefit from an old fashioned round of Bunco? From a toss of dice, a bottle of wine and a bid to win a pot of money - or at least your $5 back? There are few ways to regain community - particularly the kind that binds together generations - and none so simple as this. All it really takes, though, is someone to roll the dice, invite the neighbors and see if anyone shows up. This spring, I think, I will give it a try.


~mel said...

That's a great idea, Green Bean! I might try that too.

I don't know many of our neighbors either. Just a few that live around me. My street/neighborhood is a cul-de-sac of around 30 houses. I would really like to get to know all of them.

I've been thinking about doing a block-type party this summer. I would like to invite everyone to bring a dish and have it outdoors at our place since we have a really large lot. I think it would be great to know the neighbors and have that sense of community.

just ducky said...

Bunco is addictive!...and fun...
Both of my sisters (one lives in Nebraska, the other in Colorado) have monthly Bunco groups they attend. Also, a woman I work with attends a Bunco night once a month. I've played a couple of times and it is fun as well as gets people together. I also know some couples who have a board game night where they get together twice a month and play board games like Sequence, Scattergories, etc. Tons of fun!

CindyW said...

Nice post. I have never played Bunco, but during warm months, we have happy hours on our street. In fact we were just talking about it yesterday. On our street, we have about 12 kids with ages varying from 3 months to 6 years. So from May to October, about 6 families take turns to host happy hours (mostly out in our front yard, so we can invite neighbors who happen to walk by to join in). Our kids play together and adults unwind. It is one of the best things I love about where I live.

Green Bean said...

Thank you for the thoughts and ideas. Reading Affluenza made me remember how friendly my old neighborhood was and how much this new one is simply people scurrying into their homes. It is so important to build a "neighborhood" whether it be through Bunco, block parties, happy hours or what. :) It makes for a much more homey home.

Shannon Hodgins said...

On Lord, I had to laugh. My mom, nicknamed "Big Jerrie" for her personality is a Bunco player!

Her ladies group does it up right- - -they have a group of 12 and once a month one person hosts and does fun food, wine, etc. They love their Bunco night!

I've made so much more of an effort in the neighborhood in the past year and a half. I'm working on being a good neighbor to help build those connections. I didn't for the longest time and and came across as aloof because I don't want to be in Chicagoland. I want to be in the woods or in a wild place. I think I didn't put down roots because it's hard to leave if you do. I've figured out I'm stuck for a while and should make the best of it.

Chicago sucks though because you're better at socializing in the warm months then in the cold. I think everybody gets afraid that their house isn't clean enough, doesn't look good enough, etc...........


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