Originally published in Lipstik Magazine in November, 2012.
Thirteen years ago, Patrick and Alicia Oglesby and Jeff and Laura Budde each bought their first homes in a Columbia Lakes cul-de- sac. Before they moved in, neither couple knew who would be living next door.
“Our husbands had actually worked together at Imo’s when they were younger,” said Laura. “So they waved at each other and started chatting and catching up. Eventually Alicia and I got to know each other and we all started hanging out. “
Within a few years, each couple had started a family, and before long, Heidi and Jeremy Donald moved into the house on the other side of the Oglesbys, about to start a family of their own.
“I was pregnant,” said Heidi. “So when we moved in and I saw Alicia sitting on the front porch (pregnant with her third), I was so excited that my baby would have a playmate.”
Since all of them had young children to look after, they spent hours together near one of each other’s swing sets, or talking in a driveway as their kids shared a package of chalk. As the kids got older, the parents took turns keeping an eye on them while they played basketball or rode bikes in the cul-de-sac. If one family would set up a slip-n-slide, all of the kids came over and played on it. And when they weren’t playing outside, the kids were in and out of each other’s houses.
“It’s hard to trust people with your kids,” said Laura. “But we all got to know each other so well that we knew that if they were in one of the three houses, they were safe,” said Laura. “And even though I have boys, and Alicia has girls, and Heidi’s kids are younger, they all played together. It’s almost like they were siblings. When they argued, we just told them they had to work it out, and they all felt comfortable talking to each of us if they had a problem.”
On most free nights, the families were together, grilling in a backyard or watching movies projected onto the side of one of their houses. They also helped each other with home projects, like building decks and fences.
But with three girls growing up quickly, the Oglesbys started thinking about needing more bathrooms, which meant a bigger house. The Buddes, too, talked about upgrading, but both families kept putting off making a change since neither of them wanted to leave their neighbors.
“When either of us did go look at a house,” said Laura, “the other would be crossing their fingers, hoping they didn’t like it.”
Finally this summer, the Buddes and Oglesbys started looking at building lots together. When the Donalds found out they may be the only ones left out of the group, they jumped on board.
“We had planned on moving within the next couple of years anyway,” said Heidi. “And I couldn’t imagine the cul-de-sac without them.”
They ended up buying three consecutive lots in Briar Lake, a neighborhood in Columbia just a mile down the road, and each chose a different house plan. They put their Columbia Lakes homes up for sale with the same realtor, hoping all of them would sell quickly. Thankfully within a few nail-biting months of watching each other move away, they did.
“We all cried when we drove away from the cul-de-sac for the last time,” said Alicia. “We made so many memories there. The only thing that made it easier was knowing we’d have the same neighbors to make new ones with.”
The families spent the next few months living apart while their new homes were being built, but by the end of October, everyone was moved in — just in time for their traditional group trick-or-treating. The kids have plotted out a kickball field in the Buddes’ new backyard, and the parents are enjoying beverages on each other’s new patio. Everyone is eagerly awaiting the first snow day of the season.
“We have always spent those days together when none of us could drive to work or go to school,” said Laura. “And Jeremy and Heidi’s new yard has a perfect hill for sledding.”
Some people have told them they must be crazy for moving together. But Laura said for them, it was just about keeping the people nearby that they know they can count on.
“I guess it’s like that saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,” she said. “We all help each other out. Instead of a whole village, though, all it really takes is a few good neighbors.”