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Connections

A perfect neighbor

She’s several years older, but infinitely wiser, and I’m realizing how much I’ll miss having her right next door.

Gracia Lam

My neighbor is moving. I know, neighbors move every day. But not my neighbor. Not this rock to my left. She’s several years older but infinitely wiser, and I’m realizing how much I depend on the certainty that she’s always right next door. I’m in the taxi-mom days, constantly pulling in and out of my driveway, shuttling kids to sports practices and countless other activities. But she’s sent kids to college. And even after they graduate, she somehow gets them to come back for family dinners.

Two years ago, this neighbor not only listened to me rant about not being able to find the Orbeez Soothing Spa anywhere within 100 miles for my 9-year-old daughter for Christmas, she also sprang into action. She called her daughter at college in Florida the day before winter break, and her daughter drove to the nearest Target. She then brought this precious box of plastic home on the plane the next day. Don’t tell me there’s no Santa.

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My neighbor’s the one who reassured me years ago when I was so discouraged that my young daughter cried over every little thing. “She’ll outgrow it; they always do,” said the sage. And I knew she knew. Even when I couldn’t see the end. And of course she was right.

Nothing fazes this woman. She’s so comfortable in her own skin. And she has a soft, subtle way of saying profound things. She did it just the other day. A few of the neighbors were gathered in her kitchen for coffee (and mimosas), and some were complaining about their moms and how stubborn they’re getting as they age. “You will miss her when she’s gone. You might not think so now, but you’ll miss this.” Her words weren’t lecturey; they weren’t said in that disapproving mother tone. She made a simple statement that came from firsthand experience.

We’ve borrowed many ingredients from each other over the past 13 years. We used to say how reassuring it was to know we could call anyone on our street for a missing ingredient instead of having to run to the store. We even imagined seeing if we could make a birthday cake without having any of the ingredients. We could secretly film this challenge, we thought: First we’d borrow a cake mix from one house, then eggs, oil, frosting, and candles from others. We were certain it could be done, because our street is magical like that.

My neighbor can be counted on in a pinch to let our dog out when we’ve been gone longer than we planned. Years ago, she invited my young kids to climb into the limo in her driveway while her high school daughter and friends snapped prom pictures on her front lawn.

A greater Girl Scout cookie customer you could not find. Not only did she buy boxes of cookies for family members still at home, she also sent care packages to the ones in college and got additional orders from her daughter’s friends.

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My neighbor is a grateful person. She’s certainly had her share of sadness; everybody has a story. But she’s conscious each day of all the good in her life and will tell you she feels blessed. Each time I thank her for a favor, she quietly replies, “That’s what neighbors are for.”

I know life goes on, that it’s time for my neighbor to downsize and that another nice family will move in next door. But there will never be another Anne Marie. I hope I’ve learned something from her and can pay it forward. And I won’t set unreasonable expectations for these new people. But I am allowing myself to hope they’ll have a well-stocked pantry.

Sharon Tully is a writer in Littleton. Send comments to connections@globe.com.

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