‘If there’s a silver lining to the pandemic, this is it’
We have a nickname for our neighbour, Nonna-Roo.
Her real name is Mary but she delivers so much food to our front door, the actual food delivery service, Deliveroo is no longer required.
It's not just us - lasagnes, pasta sauce, ravioli, freshly baked pizzas find their way to the door steps of the entire street. It's actually why we moved here.
A few years back, I did a story for Channel 7 on Australia's Best Neighbour. Mary was so generous that the street decided to get together and nominate her for the award. We gathered on what is now our sidewalk to acknowledge her contribution to the neighbourhood via a tribute on national television. She was understandably embarrassed, she was just being neighbourly.
I left that day craving the same kind of community in my own life. We were living in an apartment closer to the city at the time, we knew our neighbours but not in the same way. I wanted to raise our future family in a street just like this one so I asked Mary and her friends to keep an eye out for us, perhaps a house would come up for sale and we could move in. A year later, we did.
Mary is now our neighbour and so is Carole, Eliza, Rose, Frank, Brooke, Richard and Ken. We know all their names mostly because of COVID-19.
When the country went into lockdown, our street opened up. We started a Facebook page to help each other out and it continues to this day. There were art competitions for the kids, recipe swaps and each week, a socially distanced passeggiata, taken from the Italian word meaning leisurely walk or stroll, the odd number houses would walk clockwise, while the even numbers would sit in their driveway and wait for someone to stop for a chat. It was lovely, and still is.
Those offers of extra toilet rolls and basic supplies has now morphed into magpie alerts and childcare suggestions. There's a genuine feeling of looking out for each other, and it's not just us.
There is the lovely lady in Melbourne running the seed bank from her front yard where neighbours can take free plants, a couple of kids are running a newsletter full of bad Dad jokes to make their neighbours laugh, aged care residents are finding teenage pen pals to keep them company.
If there is a silver lining to be found in this pandemic, this is surely it; a new sense of community born out of COVID-19 that is needed now more than ever.
In our little house, on our little street, our daughter now lights up when she sees Mary. We say 'ciao' to her as we pass in the pram and she eats her fresh passata with baby pasta for dinner.
If Mary is indeed Australia's best neighbour, we are Australia's luckiest.
Originally published as 'If there's a silver lining to the pandemic, this is surely it'