Boomers embrace the wave

As baby boomers, the best thing that can happen if we don’t just retire but also relocate is, life gets better. For Paula Ganzi McGloin of Millsboro, Delaware, that’s exactly what she got.

“I love the waving,” said Rick.

“We do, too!” I gushed.

My husband Billy and I were out to dinner with Rick and Martha, new friends and neighbors. We recently retired and left Long Island for southern Delaware where we had a house built in a 55+ development. Immediately, we noticed a lovely gesture: a wave. Whether I’m a driver, a pedestrian, or a cyclist here, I am the recipient of a wave. And I reciprocate. It’s a waving community.

Rick and Martha

There are many iterations. Most people give a hearty wave accompanied by a toothy grin. Others are subtle. One walker, without raising his arm, flexes his wrist perpendicular to his body, no back-and-forth motion, like a modified cyclist’s right turn signal. Some drivers lift a few fingers off the steering wheel and smile.

There’s also a back wave. If cars pass pedestrians, drivers wave in their rearview mirrors or out their windows. The pedestrian version is waving upon hearing the vehicle close behind, without turning around. Here, waving is a two-way street.

I never wait for it. My hand shoots up in the air like I’m shaking a can, while flashing a full dental salutation.

And it’s all-inclusive. I wave at neighbors I know and those I don’t, mail carriers, UPS and FedEx drivers, utility workers, landscapers, contractors, and construction workers finishing our development’s final phase. Everyone. From discussions with neighbors, it seems most residents do the same.

Visitors have commented in astonished delight: “People waved at us!”

Sometimes I accidentally double-wave when a car drives by a second time, not realizing it’s the same vehicle. I worry my wave will be deemed insincere— but it’s not. I don’t want neighbors misinterpreting my faux pas, assuming I’ve become jaded by raising an obligatory hand dismissively, one wave away from becoming a non-waver.

There are a few. Our development was built more than ten years ago and I’ve noticed some residents in the original section don’t wave. Is it age? Have they been bombarded with greetings? Will Billy and I become non-wavers?

Cathy (left) with sister Liz.

That’s unlikely. If anything, we’re over-wavers. The custom has become so ingrained that when we leave the property, we sometimes find ourselves accidentally waving to strangers. During our first visit to Long Island after retiring, my hand shot up in greeting at the sight of a woman walking down my brother’s block. She looked confused, and though she didn’t scowl, she didn’t wave.

It reminded me of the movie Crocodile Dundee where he’s walking down Fifth Avenue for the first time. “G’day, Nick Dundee from Australia,” he says, attempting to greet each person on the crowded streets of Manhattan.

When living in New York I waved to my neighbors— but only those I knew. Having lived in southern Delaware for over a year now, I haven’t noticed stranger-waving elsewhere, so it’s not state-specific. Is it particular to our community? I asked an authority.

Mary the mail carrier.

“This is the friendliest development I’ve ever seen,” said Mary, our mail carrier, who’s been delivering mail for 14 years. During a typical workday, she delivers to other neighborhoods, including another development, for a total of six hours out on the road. “I’ve never seen a development as full of friendship and love as this one. This is my peace.”

Ours, too.

8 Comments

  1. I almost at the retirement stage in life though I put it off since Covid came into our lives. I was thinking of retiring to the al garve, Portugal, but not sure I’ll do that but will investigate Delaware a bit thanks to your article!

  2. Paula I loved this article. I have been thinking about getting a waving bobble head so l don’t miss waving to anyone.

  3. Paula, loved the article. Yes we enjoy this phenom of waving. As a Delaware native I would like to add that it is really a Southern Delaware “thing”. For as long as I can remember if you visited our beaches from Northern DE, one always noticed the great hospitality, the smiles, waves, even strangers chatting you up with local stories and if you needed help the sheer volume of support readily available. It is real and we love it! Thanks

  4. Paula, I enjoyed your article so that I smiled while reading it. We have moved around a bit, neighborhoods in Northern VA and one in VA Beach and in CT as well, not much waving, friendly but not much waving. . But since we moved to North FL everyone waves in our neighborhood. As I think about it there might be a correlation between the overall relaxed vibe of a neighborhood. There is a great sense of community here. My Mom has moved to a Continuum of Care Community, 90 acres on the water, lovely environment and everyone waves and says hello. Folks become quick friends – it’s wonderful.

    I think when I lived in those other places I was busy with my life and I didn’t t even notice others . I have slowed down a little and enjoy waving and chatting too. Thank you for posting this article.

  5. Hi Paula – we just met while out walking (and waving 😉) on this beautiful day! We’re new to Indy (11/29/21) but I think Disneyworld is now second to Indy as “the happiest place in the world”! Loved your article!

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