*Please note: With an awareness of my family’s safety and privacy, I do not refer to our children by name on this public blog or its Facebook page. They are being referred as Spock, Stitch, and Jack-Jack (listed by birth order from oldest to youngest). Though I may post pictures, I intentionally keep their faces hidden. Family and friends, please help me keep their privacy by refraining from using their real names in comments. Thank you for understanding!
Vallerie inherited us as neighbors in November of 2009. We could have never guessed that we would become close. It all began when she opened her home to us and several neighbors. Had we known then what we know now, one of us surely would have walked away saying, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
One of the first things we did in our new home was put a fence up. We wanted to keep the kids in, but didn’t want to keep the neighbors out. Vallerie had a faithful audience of three little boys who would peek between the fence posts. She would unload her groceries under the watchful eyes of the ever-hungry Stitch. “Whatcha got, Ballerie?” During the summer time, a steady flow of Popsicles, fruit snacks, and juice was handed over the fence.
Our big window faced her side door. The boys would look over at her house and inform us of her movement. “Vallerie is home!” “Vallerie just left!” “Vallerie has friends over!” The boys would stand at the window to exchange waves and kisses with her.
Vallerie graciously embraced the three little boys who played outside her windows. The noise they made never seemed to bother her. She became so familiar with them, that she could differentiate between the good and bad cries. Stitch was known for his distinctive cry and, if you didn’t know better, would think he was seriously hurt. It didn’t take long for Vallerie to figure him out. She would peek from her window to see if he was okay. He would stand in front of our window, head thrown back, wailing for the world to hear. It was his station in front of the window that would give him away every time. She quickly came to understand that Stitch was waiting for a reaction that, when failing materialize, would take the wind out of his sail. As quickly as they began, the cries would stop and life went forward.
She would let the boys help her water the beautiful flowers that covered her back yard. She placed bird feeders in between our homes so that we could enjoy the birds as she did. When we moved, she gave us birdfeeders for our new yard.
Vallerie has a gift for decorating and she would put fun decorations on the side of the house for the boys to discover from the window. My favorite memory of the outdoor decorations was coming home one evening to Christmas garland and lights that had been placed on the fence during our absence to surprise the boys.
She is one of the most thoughtful and giving individuals we know. If there was a need, Vallerie strove to meet it. One week day, after noticing things were quiet at our house, she sent a text to ask how we were. Eric was at work and I was sick. She sent her well wishes. A few hours later, she surprised me by supplying lunch for the boys so that there was one less responsibility for me that day. Vallerie did things like that all the time. You can never out-think her in thoughtfulness or generosity (believe me, we’ve tried)!
Eric and I loved visiting with her. We had a path between our homes – out the sunroom door, in between the fence and dogwood trees, to her side door. Back and forth we would all go.
I was alone during the last hours in our old house. Vallerie had let me borrow cleaning supplies before leaving for the evening. She kept her side door unlocked so I could return the items. After doing so, I walked the path between our houses while tears flowed freely at the knowledge that it would be the last time.
We moved away, but have learned that distance can never alter what we share. Our text messages, phone calls, and video calls are frequent. Cards and packages make regular treks between our homes. Her name comes up on a regular basis. There are many miles between us, but we remain close.
Though Vallerie is no longer our neighbor, she is so much more. She is family.
We love you, Vallerie, with all of our hearts!