Fences Make Good Neighbors
There’s that saying, Fences make good Neighbors.
Well, this morning I got up early, excited to use our new water pressure washer, to clean my fence. I had already washed the portico in the front of the house bringing it to a sparkling white shine and was wanted to get the white vinyl fence between us and our neighbors looking the same.
Full disclosure, I love the challenge of power tools. And I love doing projects that use power tools. So spending a few hours washing a fence with a water pressure washer, is my idea of a good time.
The neighbors, that I share this fence with, is a multi-generational family home. The only person I have ever talked to though is one of the elders in the house. I don’t know his name, but in my head, I call him Mr. Neighbor-man.
We meet often, by accident in the early morning, each working in our own garden, on opposite sides of the fence.
His garden is extremely impressive with neat rows of tomatoes, peppers and melons. It’s huge. I’ve peeked over the fence numerous times. I only do flowers.
We say a sort of hello through the fence’s lattice top and Mr. Neighbor-man always hands me a tomato or pepper.
We both spend an inordinate amount of time outside in our yards working, always giving a little wave hello from a distance.
On occasion, Mr. Neighbor-man will see me doing something like hanging from a ladder or loading my car with 10 foot long branches and 40-pound bags yard debris for the dump, and he’ll shrug his shoulders as if to question why. I know he is not used to seeing the female of the house doing any outdoor work and it puzzles him.
This morning, when I got the power washer out to clean my side of our shared fence, I figured it would be sort of a “dog whistle” for Mr. Neighbor-man to come to check out my latest activity.
Indeed, within 5 minutes, with the first fence panel cleaned having moved on to the second, he appeared, looking over the fence. He did his normal shoulder shrug questioning my latest tool and activity.
I smiled and said out loud, “It’s fun. Come over and see.” I waved my hand for him to join me. That was all he needed.
He watched me clean the next panel of fence. And yes, if you are results-driven like me, it’s very satisfying to see instant cleaning results from a water pressure washer. Mr. Neighbor-man, with a smile on his face, clearly shared the same enthusiasm.
He motioned to me using one finger that he would be right back.
He walked to his side of the fence and off to his garden. I kept cleaning.
Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. Due to the noise of the air pressure washer, I hadn’t realized he had made is way back and was right behind me.
Mr. Neighbor-man was holding a clear plastic bag with at least a dozen banana peppers. He made a point of saying ‘they’re sweet’ in broken English. I had told him once over the garden fence that I didn’t like hot peppers and he remembered.
He handed me the bag in one hand and took the washer wand out of my other hand and started cleaning the fence.
He was basically trading with me. Peppers for some time with the air pressure washer.
I stood back and watched him work.
What happened next took me a bit by surprise.
I was jolted back in time to when I was three. I would accompany my grandfather to his basement workroom. He was an engineer and loved working with audio equipment. I inherited the love of all things audio from him. I would sit on the rocking horse, he kept for me, rocking back and forth, while he busied himself inventing and creating. I could sit and watch for a long time, fascinated just watching. He made for me a record player. It was a big pink square box of wood that had two buckles on the front opening like an oversized hatbox. He had affixed on top of the box a shiny colorful decal. I think it was an illustration from the three little pigs tale. When you opened up the box, a turntable was nestled inside, waiting to play a 33rpm record. My “Pops” way ahead of his time. The Fischer Price kids version wouldn’t be out for another 30 years.
Most important though was what it felt like to watch my grandfather work. Watching in quiet.
Passion in motion. Silently taking it in. Being in a quiet relationship. I hadn’t thought about my grandfather in a long time and all that I learned from him.
The emotion hit me watching Mr. Neighbor-man work.
A quiet relationship was familiar.
I almost got a bit choked up but knocked myself back to the moment when Mr. Neighbor-man needed some more gardenhose unwound to reach the next panel of fence.
And so it went.
Mr. Neighbor-man washing my side of the fence and me feeding more hose as he moved down the line.
I laughed to myself.
I wasn’t getting the wand back. He was going to finish the fence.
Here I was with someone from another country with no language spoken, together cleaning a shared fence. Removing crud, mold, and debris till it shined like new. Together.
Mr. Neighbor-man finished the last little bit of fence.
I yelled, “We are done!”
Mr. Neighbor-man turned and thanked me.
He thanked me for letting him come and clean my fence.
Fences do make good Neighbors.
I should end the story here.
But I can’t.
Mr. Neighbor-man walked back to his side of the fence and I got real chocked up.
I had started the morning ready to do a simple chore.
But I had gotten so much more than just a clean fence.