“Hey Mom, the others are outside now, go quickly!”
This is what Mari Kauppinen’s son Santtu often exclaims while he is busy playing, when he sees Sari Karonen and Nina Heikinheimo, his mother’s friends, outside. From his window, Santtu has a direct view of the front yard of the building, and he often looks out to see if there are any familiar faces outside.
Mari’s family moved into their Lumo home on Hilapellontie in Konala, Helsink,i in June 2020, and enjoy the quiet area. Closeness to nature and good outdoor recreation trails are important because the family has a two-year-old dog called Luna. Mari appreciates that she may spot a fox or deer while out walking, and still have quick public transport connections for going out to town or to work.
The Kauppinen family had lived in the building for a month, when Sari, recently widowed, moved to an apartment in the same stairwell. She has a dog, too, and the two women started chatting outdoors.
“I don’t make friends easily, but somehow Sari and I just hit it off right away,” Mari says.
In early autumn, Nina, who was living nearby, began to prepare moving with her son into the same building. Nina had been living in Konala for years, and decided to stay in the area after her divorce.
“I was out walking my dog and I we passed this building. Then, I saw Sari outside and thought, well, I’ll go over and have a chat. I just went over and said, “Hi, do you live here, I’m going to move in.
That was the beginning of a close friendship between three neighbours.”
The Lumo team develops the common good for the whole housing company
A table tennis ball bounces from the table to the bat, sometimes hitting the roof on the way. Mari and Nina are playing table tennis in the club room on the first floor of their home building. Nina’s German shepherd Luca runs around the spacious room with a floorball in his mouth. Sari plays with Luca while Nina focuses on her game. Then, the table tennis ball bounces hard off the table and loud laughter fills the room.
“It had been a long time since I had laughed so much that my stomach hurts. Anything can happen with this lot,” Mari says.
The women laugh a lot while telling about last year’s trip to fetch a Christmas tree together, and how they had some trouble with the van. The car spurted at the start and there was a lot of resin and fir needles. The volume rises and laughter continues while the women go over their joint activities in the past six months. The things they do are just everyday stuff, but between these three, they sound comical.
“It’s just incredible that even in adulthood, you can find common ground and a bond with like-minded people,” Nina says.
They have spent a lot of time together in the clubroom. While the women moved into the building, the room stood empty. Now, there is not only table tennis, but also air hockey, a small set of chairs and a table, and a Korona game table for all residents’ use. The women have acquired all this with the money budgeted for the building’s Lumo team.
In autumn 2020, the building did not have a Lumo team, but the property manager suggested that the three friends set up one, since they had put together a list of equipment missing in the building at that time. As a Lumo team, they would have an annual budget allocated to the team for the purpose of purchasing things and carrying out projects for the common good of the residents in the building. After giving some thought to the matter, they accepted and started working.
It was the team’s money they used to buy the infamous Christmas tree for the yard, and later on, the tree fell over so many times that it became a comedy. Eventually, Mari’s husband bolted the tree onto the ground and it brought joy to the residents of neighbouring houses as well.
Next summer’s plan is to buy a barbeque for the building, and there has been talk with the neighbours about an exercise bicycle. The ladies start laughing as soon as they wonder who will get to drive the van when these are obtained.
Friendship between neighbours is unique
“I’m sure people wonder who these three women are who walk about in a row here,” Sari says and laughs again.
Sari, Mari and Nina have an active WhatsApp group for sharing their daily news. Over a short period of time, they have become a tight-knit trio.
The friendship between neighbours is different from many other types of friendship. You rarely meet a friend so often on a daily basis – you can bump into each other outside or in the stairwell. And when a friend is outside, it is easy to run along to catch up. Taking out the trash often takes some time, if a friend happens to be outside.
When the physical distance is so short, the threshold to meet up, even briefly, is low. It’s easy to keep up with each others’ daily lives. And it’s easy to be present, ask for help and give help whenever needed. The women have assembled furniture together, cooked meals, spent the New Year, taken the dogs out for walks and so on.
“This friendship has become more emphasised as there are no other social contacts at present,” Mari says.
As the past year has been challenging for all three ladies, it is even more valuable to suddenly have found friends to lean on nearby.
No need to worry about moving into a an apartment building with a dog
Mari works as a nurse in a COVID-19 ward and that is why social contacts are not easy to maintain. Important conversations with colleagues are few and far between in her current job, and she has no chance to unwind and talk about the heavy workload. In this context, friends become even more important.
“Imagine how good it is to get to laugh so hard that everyone’s stomach and face hurts,” Mari says.
Meeting her neighbours, taking the dogs out for a walk together and letting off steam playing table tennis are vitally important for Nina, too, who works long hours remotely in her Lumo home.
For Sari, new day-to-day life in her new home has proved to be way better than she expected. Beforehand, she was terrified about moving from a single-family house into an apartment building with a dog, who was not used to living in such an environment. The good soundproofing in the house has helped Dana the dog to adjust. Sari has received help and support a couple of steps away from her front door.
“It has been really lovely to make new friends. If I don’t have something or need help, I can always call these two. One day, Mari took my dog out when I was feeling unwell. I’ve never had anything like this before,” Sari says.
The women appreciate their close contact particularly as anything similar is rare for them.
“We are all bold, bubbly and outgoing, but none of us have had many female friends before, or it has not been easy to make friends like this,” Mari says.
Interaction is straightforward between the women, but the dogs are not that easy. They are not getting along very well just yet.
“Dana is an old lady and she’s afraid of bigger dogs. Luna gets along well with other dogs, but Luca doesn’t. Dana and Luca have been out for a walk together, and it went well as long as Luca walked in front and did not notice Dana, the ladies explain together.
Afterwards, it is hard to recall who said what.