I think often of the street I grew up on. It was a lovely neighborhood with kids my age and older and younger, and interesting people up and down the street. As time went on, children grew up and moved away, adults got older and moved away, one house got knocked down and replaced with a ticky-tacky McMansion-y thing, one child moved back into the family home (after his parents went elsewhere) and one couple is still there. But I'm still in touch with so many of them, of all ages, many through the miracle of Facebook, others because we share Christmas cards and a certain history.
Before my husband and I got married, we scratched our heads about who was going to perform the ceremony. We're heathenpaganatheists and it didn't seem quite right to ask a cleric (though that is what we ultimately did). I had the whimsical idea that we could call in three of wise men from the neighborhood: the Methodist minister from across the street, the rabbi from next door, and the Joyce scholar from down the hill. It'd have been a gloriously high-minded cross-cultural mess with a certain je ne sais quoi about it:
The Methodist minister died in 2002; I was on my way home from his funeral when I learned that my second IVF had failed.
The Joyce scholar died in 2012; his widow is still living in their house, still throwing a holiday shindig, though recently she's made it a New Year's open house instead of a Boxing Day party.
And last winter, the rabbi died.
He was a mensch, tall and courtly, and a scholar. When I was a kid, he was just Gene Borowitz, neighbor. Later I learned that he had a big profile out in the world, a life of "working to advance race relations and civil rights" and helping to "shape Reform Jewish thinking and practice". I remember him today because it's the time of year when the azaleas and rhododendrons blaze away in hot pinks and soft lavenders and creamy whites; his yard was full of fancy azaleas and unusual rhododendrons.
My three wise men are now all gone, but azaleas will always remind me of Gene.