What's Your Next-Door Neighbor Story?

True Love in War

When Gilman Hamer died of Cancer in 2006, he left his Austrian beauty, Renate, across the street from my house, and all alone. She was so small that day, the day I crossed the street and walked up the driveway past her immaculate garden of Cosmos and Sunflowers, to see how Gilman was feeling. Her hair, usually tightly curled and pinned back with two little silver combs, was unkempt and she looked like a little girl, all hunched over at the kitchen table. I knew then, because it was the first time she had ever looked emotionless.
I sat with her and her daughter and two sons and she told me the love story again, in her soft, Austrian accent: "During World War II I was volunteering for the Red Cross and Gilman, a soldier, saw me one day and asked me to one of the dances he would go to. I agreed and he gave me a stick of gum. He was so handsome in his uniform and we hadn't seen gum in Austria in a while. I went to the dance. After that we had dates, down by the railroad tracks. He would sneak a donut and we would share it together. In 1947 he sent for me to come to America. I met Mama and I went to the supermarket for the first time. Oh! I just loved this country! There in front of my eyes were so many bright, red apples! I had not eaten an apple in quite some time and I bought a whole bunch. It's when I knew I loved this country. And then Gilman went out and bought me a hat and a suit and I married my best friend."
Renate and Gilman had three boys and a girl and lived in the little house across from mine their entire life. It had a wide yard and the house, which was slightly sunk into the ground, was covered in Hamer crafts. Gilman made sea chest becketts- a skill he learned in the Merchant Marines, Renate played the piano and pressed flowers, wrote in calligraphy. On valentines day, they left each other cards and surprises around the house.
In 2010 Renate is 87, but not alone.She shares her memories with me.


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Have a Next-Door Neighbor Story?

As part of our new webcomic, Next-Door Neighbor, we thought it appropriate to have a little contest. Tell us your best true next-door neighbor story, and the winning tale will be matched with an artist and transformed into a webcomic and included as the final installment of Next-Door Neighbor.

About Next-Door Neighbor

No matter how close or how far, we all live next to someone, and we all have a Next-Door Neighbor story. With that in mind, editor Dean Haspiel asked some of his favorite storytellers and cartoonists to create their favorite NDN stories so we could share them with you.

The Fine Print & Contest Rules

By submitting an entry, you are granting SMITH the right to reprint or republish that entry online or in print, as well as make any necessary edits. See SMITH's terms of service for complete details.

This contest ends September 1, 2008. Prizes are not redeemable for cash and must be accepted as awarded. Winners are decided at the discretion of SMITH judges and all decisions are final. SMITH reserves the right to change the contest rules. Enter as often as you want. SMITH reserves the right to reprint or republish all entries.

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