I live with my husband and two children but also several small children, dogs, musicians, a South American sandwich maker, a French baker, an Indian server, a pretty blonde girl that sells linens, families old and young and thousands of tourists. Living in the Vieille Ville of Nice, I am never alone. At night, when I lie down, I hear the low guitar and drum beat from Soul Music Bar across the walk. In the morning, I smell fresh bread from the bakers downstairs. In the afternoon, I watch all the local teenagers hang out at the sandwich shop across the square. City living is a melange of families, businesses, and human connection that we have lost in suburban America.
The shared experiences are new to me. I haven't had to share a bathroom with anyone but my husband for 30 years and now our family of 4 has one shower, one toilet, and one washer (no dryer). I get to hang out my clothes on a drying rack for tourists and neighbors to see.
I wake up to the smells of a neighborhood, fresh bread from right below me. At lunch, aromas of roasting meat and caramelized onions fill the living space and there is always chatter from the square below. Even when I clean, I still smell the restaurants below. I get to hear children when they are sad, I can see families sharing meals, and I watch elderly couples stroll each evening arm in arm. Today, I watched a small boy learn to ride his bike and a little girl fall out of a swing.
Two nights ago, Kelly had a conference call at 10pm our time. He sat with his laptop on the small balcony in an even smaller bistro chair working. He turned around to see four men leaning out from the waist up out of different windows smoking. They were all sharing a beautiful evening from their apartments down the alley.
A couple of summers ago, Camille and I rented an apartment for a few weeks in a small village near here during the World Cup. During the soccer matches we could hear communal cheers from apartments all over the hillside. In this modern world we have created, so much of our life is insulated, not only from the weather, with nice houses centrally heated and cooled, and airtight cars delivering us from point A to point B, but also with little or no contact with our fellow man. When I was young I remember only having 3 tv channels and you would arrive at school the day after an Olympic event or a big show and everyone had seen the same thing- with our 300+ channels, even those shared moments are diluted.
There is something very human about connection. We all want to connect on some level, we need interaction. It makes me miss home and our great friends and family but also makes me feel a part of a community even though I barely know their language.