The babies have made me a part of the neighborhood. Taking them out for a walk means smiles and thumbs up from strangers, meeting women young and old, waving at kids, petting dogs, conversations of all sorts.
For the two years I lived here before the twins’ arrival I had developed a hello relationship with the two couples downstairs and with one neighbor. Since the babies arrived I have met Carmen and Nilsin next door, their teenage daughter and her friend, their father, and on the other side Ted and Helen, Dorothy, and many of Helen’s lady friends from the neighborhood who gather in her front yard on pleasant evenings. I’ve met Wally down the block and his two bull terriers, Luna and Patchy. And I at least smile at the man on the corner with the long white ponytail, who never gave me the time of day before.
My mother in law, who managed to raise my husband in a rough patch of Yonkers, New York, often gives me advice about how to stay safe in a neighborhood. “You have to go out so people see you,” she says. “Then they know you belong there, and if something happens to you they look out for you.” With these babies, people see me.
Sunset Park is a beautiful mix of Chinese, Mexican, Puerto Rican, young urban professionals, Hasidic Jews and everything in between. As I walk down the street there are exclamations of “Twins?” “Oh, so cute, twins!” “A boy and a girl?” “God bless!” “God bless them!” “Congratulations.” A teen girl crossing the street with a group of friends: “OH MY GOD TWINS!!” An elderly lady carrying two huge bags of cans holds up two fingers and beams, “TWO?!” She then continues to speak to me in Chinese, the both of us smiling the while. A little girl runs up and strokes M’s face and runs off before I can say anything.
Yesterday my neighbor on the left was outside as I arrived home from a walk. “Oh the twins!” she said, “Let me come see how big they are.” “Can I help you up the stairs?” her husband offered, edging down his own stoop. After she’d admired them and was turning toward home she said smiling, “You live in the baby house.” (Our downstairs neighbors also have babies. We are also the only rental building on a block of owners.) “It’s great,” she said, “They bring joy to the block.”