Central Park is a typical town home community in Charlotte, North Carolina. Every home is literally the same – two-story brick, trim and shutters painted in complementary colors, neatly manicured patches of lawn. Each Thursday morning, the trash and recycling bins magically appear and, like clockwork, disappear each evening.
The similarities run deeper. Each town home contains a busy professional or two. Often a dog. Children are whisked away to school early in the morning and returned late in the afternoon, immediately going inside. Cars come and go. People are rarely outside. Having lived here for nine months, I wouldn’t call Central Park a neighborhood. It is, quite literally, a place where people park their lives.
All that changed last week when the formal rhythm of Central Park was disrupted. Actually, it ground to a halt when all of us were instructed to stay at home in the national effort to flatten the line of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s when something magical and entirely unexpected began.
It started with the kids. A few at first, riding their bikes and scooters in the street. Then a few more, playing kickball. Hanging out with their brothers and sisters. Laughing. Having fun.
A few days passed. Change was definitely a foot. I smiled and waved at the kids I never knew existed when I went out to walk my dogs. At first they were shy. The smiles got broader with each day of familiarity. My dogs made friends with a little girl’s pup named Newton. “Sr. Isaac Newton?” I asked. A smile. “Cam Newton.” I should have know. This is Charlotte after all.
On trash day I noticed my neighbor had a huge pile of staff at the curb, so when I saw him (at a distance of more than eight feet) I asked if he was moving. “No, just cleaning out the garage. I got a weight bench to give my son and I something to do.”
I didn’t even know he had a son.
By Saturday, Central Park had undergone a seismic shift. Parents were outside with their kids chatting (at a healthy distance) with neighbors and their kids. A father and son were playing ping pong in their garage. Another father-son duo was shooting hoops in their driveway. A family down the street was lifting hard core weights in their garage. The parents across the street were sitting in lawn chairs chilling with a beverage as their kids drew chalk pictures on the sidewalk.
And not a bit of stress to be found. Everyone was relaxed. Enjoying each other. Outside. Not a smart phone in sight. For the first time, Central Park was a neighborhood. A real neighborhood. Quite a discovery.
And that, my friends, is what a pandemic can do for you.
Melanie Lux – me! – is a communications strategist, freelance writer, and public relations professional who, like you, is working at home and creating a new normal during these uncertain times. To learn more, visit my website, Lux-Writes. Let’s connect via tech or person. Life goes on and so does the need to communicate.