SANDY RUN, S.C. – Mary Sue Merchant died of natural causes in her tightly locked house on 25 acres in this small community, with only a dog for company. Now her small town is reflecting on why no one noticed for 18 months
I know some say that’s a good thing because of the perverts and sickos among us but when we shut out our neighbors we shut out so much more.
I grew up in a house on a street in a neighborhood of people I knew. My parents let us outside alone in packs safe in the knowledge that the people who lived around us knew us too. Our street was like family each house another branch on the family tree. Mrs Rietano next door babysat us. My first babysitting job was for the family on the other side. My oldest son named for their little boy, a man now with boys of his own. We celebrated birthdays, had street picnics, mourned losses, and we children played outside year round. WE waved at each other when passing in cars and when someone was ill we pulled together to help out. One memorable winter the men n the street dug us out house by house after a particularly bad snow storm.
There were bad things about living on a close-knit street like I did. I could get in trouble at one end of the street and my folks would know about it by the time we’d all pedaled back home. Each house had a story. One family retired missionaries, another the large family of the local Police Chief, a childless (by choice) couple, an immigrant from Italy and her adult unmarried daughter. We had 6 Kodak families, two from Case-Hoyt, a widow with 8 children who always was first to help out anyone who needed anything. one always unemployed man who took his anger out on his wife and kids time after time even after one by one the other parents would call the police for help. We looked after the weak ones, cheered on the athletes, and helped each other put up and take down Christmas and Hanukkah decorations. Kids got to play outside after dark, parents felt safe knowing who was around us.
It sounds like a silly old fashioned life to live but there’s a security and happiness in knowing your neighbors. I know mine now, it’s second nature for me. I wave and say hello and send over baked goods to the nice elderly widower on the corner. I don’t want to be the person who one day is quoted in the paper saying “I hadn’t seen her in a while but I was so busy I just never noticed” My life is busy and yes, I pull up the driveway and into the garage and close the door shutting out the world around me but I always make sure to know the people around me because life is full of strangers already, I don’t want to live surrounded by strangers too.