The concept of “being a good neighbor” is a totally different idea in the country than in the city or suburbs. First, and most obviously, you’ve got distance on your side. Our little chunk of Southern Indiana countryside is definitely becoming more populated, but even still, our closest neighbors are a good 1/4 mile away. There’s no prying eyes or too loud music. Fences make for good neighbors? Nah, I think having a nine acre buffer makes for good neighbors.
The other thing that is a major difference in the country neighborly relationship is something I like to call friendly avoidance. We all know one another exist. But, for the most part, we stay out of one another’s way. We might not speak or even see one of our neighbors for months and months at a time. There is no popping over to borrow a cup of sugar (unless you want to uh, probably get shot or eaten by a dog). There are no block parties (ha! what blocks?). We co-exist without really co-existing. Again, the joys of having a nine acre bubble.
The great part about everyone having their own space (both physically and mentally), is that there are rarely any ruffled feathers. And that means, that when someone in the area needs help, the neighbors turn up in droves. We might not have spoken since last summer, but if your horse got out or your kid ran away or a tornado knocked your roof off (real world example there)—you’ve got friends. People in the big cities do a lot of making fun of us country folks, and there are a lot of country ideals I don’t subscribe too, but being there for your fellow human when they’re in need? That’s something I can get behind.
When I was growing up in this house, our closest neighbors lived at the top of the hill, and they were the sweetest family. My family and theirs had that kind of country neighbor relationship. We might go months without talking, but if either of us were in need, it wasn’t even a question. They babysat me when my parents were in a jam. My Dad drove in a snow storm to pick them up because he was the only one with four-wheel drive. And once a year, the Mom would drop off a plate of Monster Cookies. She didn’t stay to chat or visit (because unannounced visitors are not why people move out to the country), she’d just drop the cookies, ask how everyone was doing, and then head back home.
Monster cookies were never something we made in our house, but I always looked forward to these giant, chewy, M&M speckled cookies from our neighbor each Christmas. The version that our neighbor made for us were huge—like dinner plate sized, I make mine a bit smaller—so I always assumed that the “monster” part of the name came from the size, but really, it comes from the fact that this is a Franken-cookie. It’s about a half-dozen different types of cookie all rolled into one delicious dessert. There’s peanut butter in there and oats and M&Ms and chocolate chips and a whole lot of sugar and butter. Some folks throw in Rice Krispies or nuts or raisins or shredded coconut. Pretty much anything you’d put in a cookie can go in Monster cookies and they’d still be delicious.
Make sure you serve these cookies with a tall glass of cold milk. These are the kind of cookies that need milk—like a perfect chocolate chip cookie or a classic peanut butter cookie. It’s not because they are dry (they’re quite gooey and moist) or crunchy (they’re soft and chewy), but because they’re rich, decadent, and full of candy add-ins that require a big swig of milk to wash them down.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have your own neighbor buffer of acres and acres, and your neighborly relationship has turned a little less than neighborly this year, might I recommend whipping up a batch of these cookies, swallowing your pride, and delivering them to the folks next door? It’s Christmas. Spread the love (And the cookies).