I’m thrilled to have Stephanie share her turquoise table story with you today! These beautiful words and her moving story were recently published in her Dallas area neighborhood newsletter. Stephanie’s story has reminded me that front yard people span generations and the invitation to the table? It’s always open. Thank you Stephanie for sharing your story and for being Front Yard People!
Front Yard People
By Stephanie Wakeem
As a girl growing up in a small town in the 1980s, I remember the sense of community surrounding my neighborhood. Neighbors looked out for each other because they knew one another, not just by face but by name. Families grilled together, children played together and neighbors generally helped one another. Where I’m from, we didn’t have fences unless it was a chain link dog run for pets, and everyone’s garages were in the front or on the side of their homes. We had a general idea when people were home because we could see them coming and going. In fact, as a kid, the only reason to really be inside our house was to either eat, sleep or do homework.
When we moved into our first home in Camelot eight years ago, I had visions of neighbors barbequing on summer evenings and sharing coffee on chilly mornings out on the front lawns. I dreamed of a community where everybody knows your name and waves as they drive by. I quickly realized that the harsh reality of alleyways, garages in the back of the house and high fence lines prevented us from even seeing our neighbors most of the time.
Now don’t misunderstand. We have some phenomenal neighbors. It’s taken efforts on all our parts to establish and maintain those relationships over the years, and it’s wonderful to call them friends. We’ve also had some pretty awesome cookouts, but they’re always in the back yard where no one could possibly join in or say hello if they were walking by. And while we LOVE our neighborhood association and appreciate the value they place on getting involved within the Camelot community, a once-a-year neighborhood picnic is just not enough for this extrovert, who longs for authentic relationships to continue year round.
My husband and I want to know those living around us, and we felt that in order to do that, we needed to be out front. But how do we become front yard people when our porch can’t even fit two people on it? How can we accomplish our goals when the little bench we have in the yard doesn’t exactly scream out to those walking by, “Hey! Come sit and visit with us!”?
We’ve tried a few things over the years like hosting a kids’ event on our front lawn and some ice cream socials, but, again, those are large events, and what we want is to connect one on one with other families and to inspire others to go back home and do the same. And then I read a blog post by a woman out of Austin who shares a common dream about front yard living. As I read her story about buying a picnic table, painting it turquoise, and putting it in her FRONT yard, I knew that this was exactly what we needed to do.
People love to eat together. There’s something about sitting down at a table that connects us, and that’s when we realized we needed to bring the back yard fun to the front yard. So we bought a picnic table, painted it bright blue and plopped it right smack dab in the front yard for all to see. We want people to see us out front with our friends and neighbors and feel so inspired that they stop and sit with us. Out walking your dog? Walking to the bus stop? We hope they’ll stop and come say hi.
Here in Camelot we’re starting our own table movement with an idea that community, sharing and gathering starts at the table, and we want everyone to know that they’re welcome here. But we’re not the only family you’ll see in the front yard this summer. To date, three other families in Camelot have taken this challenge to heart. You are invited to the table.