Saturday, August 21, 2010

Miss Rita from Lebanon

I have always hoped to find a neighborhood where everyone knew each other, where everyone genuinely cared for one another. Most of the time neighbors just make small talk, but every once in a while a glimpse of who someone really is comes out during one of those conversations.

Last night I met Rita, Susan and a couple of other neighbors while they were sitting by the pool enjoying a couple of drinks to let off steam from the hard work-week. Stepping out onto my patio, they greeted me warmly, surprising me a little bit with their shouting. "Hi neighbor!" And, "Yes! Hello neighbor how are you tonight?"

I had a towel on my head-- having just stepped out of a long shower, and wore only a black tee-shirt. When I realized I wasn't alone on this steamy August night, I made sure nothing was revealed from the bottom of my tee and replied with a warm, "Good evening! I'm just fine, how are you doing?"

And then came the small talk; the exchanging names, apartment locations, etc. I knew I would see them again so I didn't try my best to remember their buzzed and slurred names. They asked me about Merlin, and I told them he was my husky, staying for the night. Mentioning how much they all loved dogs, they promised mum was the word when it came to the Leasing office. And so our bonding began.

Leaving them to their evening, I couldn't help but smile as I stepped back into my apartment, the cool air conditioning sweeping over my face. Little did I know that the next afternoon I would see Susan and Miss Rita tanning by the pool as I taught Evan how to dive. More small talk was exchanged but the surface layers rubbed off and I found out Miss Rita and her family had been here for almost seven years and each member was brought over one by one by her brother, from Lebanon.

I've never known much about Lebanon and I felt humbled talking to a woman who I had assumed to be of Latin or Hispanic backgrounds. After she taught me about Lebanese children learning multiple languages from a very young age, Miss Rita asked me if I was American, American. Of course I said yes, and then that I was born in Saint Louis. A wide smile took over her face as Miss Rita giggled and excitedly said, "Oh my goodness a real American, that's so great!" I have never in all my life seen such a wonderful reaction when I've simply said I was born and raised in America.

It's probably hard for me to understand where she was coming from because I was born in the suburbs, never had to immigrate and I didn't grow up in an area with a ton of immigrants. Needless to say, I felt honored that Miss Rita was so excited to meet a born-and-raised-in-the-States American.

I'm not sure how much I will see Miss Rita, her sister Susan, and the rest of the family, but I can be sure that when I do, I'll say hi and ask how her niece is doing with her ping-pong competitions and if she's met any more "pure-blood" Americans.