A neighbor is often an asset or a hindrance, with the gray area mostly comprised of apathy —sometimes neighbors have no interest in a relationship. Becoming neighbors with Jennifer Marchant for Jordan and Mike Horan proved to be such a benefit and a blessing that they committed to staying neighbors even when a move was necessary.
The Horans moved to Columbia in 2011. Jordan is originally from High Point, North Carolina, while Mike hails from Savannah, Georgia. The couple met at Clemson, and Mike then studied at the Medical University of South Carolina. Prior to Mike becoming an orthopaedic surgeon at Palmetto Health-USC Orthopedic Center, they lived in New York City. They purchased a home in 2011 on Wyndham Road near Trenholm Plaza that was adequate for their new family, which included daughter Merritt, 4 years old at the time, and baby Patrick on the way. The Horans soon met and became mildly friendly with Jennifer Marchant when she welcomed them to the neighborhood where she had lived with her husband for more than 10 years; at the time, Jennifer’s daughter, Vivian, was less than a year old.
However, Jennifer’s impending divorce rapidly cultivated a relationship with the Horans that extended beyond neighborly politeness to become a deep, abiding friendship.
“Mike worked a lot because he is a pediatrician, and Jennifer and I were young moms,” says Jordan, a stay-at-home mom who tried to be accessible if Jennifer, director of Medicare operations for Absolute Total Care, needed backup childcare for Vivian. It soon became commonplace for Jennifer and Vivian to spend evening mealtimes with the Horan family, with Mike expressing his excellent culinary skills on appreciative diners.
Jennifer says the burgeoning relationship just kind of happened. “Nothing was planned. It evolved into something really close and supportive, and I just can’t pinpoint how or why. We’ve not only shared meals, but Christmas, holidays, and birthdays.”
“We just sort of fell into a natural, comfortable synergy,” says Jordan. “Meals, playtime, co-parenting … just being there for each other and helping each other out. We parent similarly; we discipline similarly. There are no set boundaries, just natural considerations. We just really enjoyed one another’s company, and it just all fit. Everyone just goes with the flow, including Mike.”
Then the Horans welcomed number three child, Thomas, three years ago. There was no doubt as to who his godmother would be: Jennifer. But with a third child came the reality that the Wyndham Road home may not work as their long-term family residence.
“We wanted more space,” says Jordan, “but what we did not want was to move away from Jennifer. I didn’t even want to tell her that we were considering looking for a new home. I told Mike and even my parents that I just couldn’t imagine it.”
The couple contacted Re/Max Realtor Terry Bishop just to see what was available. He showed them his house on Woodland Drive, a wide street surrounded by Beltline Boulevard and Devine Street with 30 mid-20th century homes set far apart with plenty of yard. Terry planned to move to the lake and felt that his home met the Horans’ future family needs.
“It was a great home, and we felt it would work,” says Jordan, “but the only things holding us back were Jennifer and Vivian. She had mentioned, in passing, that she might want to downsize since it was just her and Vivian, but she had not spoken seriously about looking.”
Spontaneously, Jordan asked Terry who lived next door to the home he was selling and if he would introduce her to them. “I met them and asked if they would like to sell their house. They said they had thought about it.” A plan formulated in Jordan’s mind, and Mike agreed: If Terry could find a home for his neighbors and if the price on his neighbors’ home was “right,” then the Horans would approach Jennifer with the idea of purchasing the Woodland Drive home next to them so they could continue what was started on Wyndham Road.
“All the stars aligned,” says Jordan, and before too much time passed, Terry’s neighbors liked a home he showed them, decided to buy it, and agreed to sell their home. “It was all in the works before we even presented the idea to Jennifer!”
As soon as the word “moving” was uttered by the Horans, Jennifer was on board.
“I admit that I did cry at first,” says Jennifer, before securing the house on Woodland Drive. “The only reason I had stayed in the house on Wyndham after the divorce was because of the Horans. I knew they were still going to be in the same city, but I didn’t wanted to stay in my home on Wyndham, even if there had not been a home next door to them on Woodland.”
When she visited the home on Woodland Drive, Jennifer knew it was meant to be. It was the ideal downsized space at 1,900 square feet, it was priced in a range she could afford as a single working mom, and — best of all — it included a wheelchair ramp, ideal for her father, who suffered from ALS at the time.
“It just became the perfect situation,” says Jordan, happily.
“Jordan definitely gets all the kudos for making it happen,” says Jennifer. “She led the charge.”
Jordan and Mike purchased their new home in July 2015, while Jennifer purchased in September. Both homes were built in
the 1930s to 1940s. The Horans’ new home, however, required some significant renovations and updating before they moved in that December, while Jennifer and her daughter moved in upon purchasing their home. With construction underway on the Horans’ home, the first few months were chaotic for the neighbors.
Jordan explains that construction trucks were parked in both front yards for six months. Plus, a dumpster for debris took up the adjoining space between the two homes. “There is no way any other neighbor would have been okay with that,” says Jordan. “I was so stressed out and worried. But Jennifer said, ‘It’s okay. You know I’m fine with it.’ That’s just how it is with us. I was more worried about it than she was, and it all worked out.”
“I try to go with the flow,” says Jennifer. “I’m just happy to still be living next door to them.”
The move from Wyndham Road to Woodland Drive has been positive for both families. Jennifer’s garage was an old eyesore, so it was torn down and the Horans purchased the sliver of the land on which it stood. They constructed an expansive two-car garage that not only adequately houses two cars, but also has an extended back space to hold their children’s bikes and Vivian’s, as well as Vivian’s scooter and Jennifer’s lawn equipment.
While the Horan’s front yard needed dirt eliminated in order to lay sod and to landscape, Jennifer’s backyard was in dire need of soil. Jordan and Mike had workers transport all the dirt to Jennifer’s backyard, where it was smoothed and readied for sod. Also, six mature 20-foot Leyland cypress trees along the Horans’ driveway needed to be removed to make way for a circular drive. They had them uprooted and transplanted so Jennifer would have a buffer hedge.
“They’re just so good to me,” says Jennifer. “There has been a lot going on since I moved in, especially with my father losing his battle with ALS, but I just couldn’t be in a better place. We all just get one another. We share frustrations and milestones and borrow things. And Mike especially is great to give me suggestions about what to do about this or that around my house.”
The Horans’ new home also includes a pool. Most warm afternoons, their children and Vivian swim while Jordan, Mike, and Jennifer hang out on the back deck. Both family philosophies focus on children being outdoors as much as possible. “We’re not big on TV time,” says Jordan. “If it’s above 35 degrees and not raining, they are usually outside.”
Because growing children dynamics have changed due to evening activities especially during the school year, the neighbors make it a point to plan a mealtime on weekends, especially Sunday evening. The children all currently carpool and attend Brennen Elementary School. And although Vivian goes to aftercare since Jennifer works, Jordan sometimes picks her up early to play with her children. Jordan says Vivian and Patrick are closest in age and closest as friends, acting much like siblings.
Plus, Jordan may take Vivian with them when they eat a meal out or vice versa. Recently, while Jordan, her children and Vivian were eating at Moe’s and Jennifer was running a few errands, Vivian turned to Jordan and said, “We’re like family, aren’t we … not blood family, but family.” Jordan responded in the positive and says she feels like her children enjoy the same connection with Jennifer.
“The kids are mostly why we are the way we are,” says Jordan, explaining the level of friendship. “It’s just easy and natural, and I expect it will stay that way, even as the kids grow and change.”
Jordan adds, “We’ve been through some life stresses together and we’ve moved together, which is a biggie, but we’ve maintained closeness. We’ve seen the ins and outs of one another’s daily lives. Our friendship as neighbors has morphed into something much more.”
Jennifer says, “If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would have moved for neighbors … no way. But it’s just unique. I feel neighbors should be close, but in our society today there is so much busyness. In a sad way, people don’t embrace robust neighbor relationships or even have the opportunity to. It means everything to have someone next door I can depend on.”