Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Neighborly spirit

Many years ago, Robert Frost penned a line that would become a philosophical discussion for decades to come. “Good fences make good neighbors,” he wrote, in his poem “Mending Wall.”

I remember reading it in my school-aged days and thinking that our neighbors were the best ever because we had a fence. In hindsight, I bet that they loved our fence just as much because it contained our childhood ruckus.

In any case, that phrase has stuck with me over time because mostly my brain loves to sit and postulate things without answers. It has an affinity for driving me batty, I think. And here at our current house, we don’t have fence. But we have great neighbors. Probably some of the very best in the whole world.

We have shared impromptu pizzas and have a long-standing tradition of looking for campfire smoke rising from a backyard, because that’s our open invitation to bring over a chair and a bag of marshmallows. Our children have learned to be a fantastic team of lightening bug and toad catchers, while us grown-ups stand barefooted in the street and solve all of the world’s problems.

But more than just the fun stuff, my neighbors have become a vital part of my life, nearly necessary to my survival and sanity.

Our neighbors have rescued me countless times with the perpetual one cup of sugar that never seems to be there when you need it. They’ve plowed and shoveled my driveway when we were on vacation and loaned me their lawn mowers when ours happened to break while I was using it. (Note: I did not break the lawnmower.)

They also recently came to my rescue during a slight disaster that, as usual, happens when my husband wasn’t home. Away with the kids at a movie one evening, my upstairs toilet chose exactly that moment to break and spray hundreds of thousands of gallons (give or take a few thousand gallons) all over my bathroom. Those thousands of gallons then decided to drain through the ceiling down into my kitchen, and I walked into my house thinking we had a sprinkling system that had gone awry or that while I was gone someone turned my kitchen into a large shower room.

But we don’t have a sprinkling system. My kitchen was still a kitchen, and it was really, really wet.

Within minutes the fire department showed up, and at this time I’d like to publicly apologize for being completely ridiculous, sprinting around my house and throwing every towel and blanket we own at the kind volunteer fireman, all the while drenched and potentially speaking authentic frontier gibberish at high decibels.

But before long, my neighbors came to my rescue.

“What can I do?” he asked.

“Keep me from going crazy,” I said. “And you can have bucket duty.”

Another neighbor showed up and helped remove the light fixtures that were full of water, something that I know that if I would have tried to do I probably would have somehow turned off power to the entire town and have hair that permanently looked liked the Bride of Frankenstein.

When it was all said and done, with the help of unbelievable family and generous neighbors, we live to see another day. A bit of cleanup and some replacing and my family will be back to normal…or whatever you want to call it.

And so I have to really ponder Frost’s poem and his “good fences make good neighbors” line. And while I still semi-agree, I think there should be an addendum to the poem. At the bottom, below all the lines should be, in parentheses:

(But great neighbors don’t really need fences.)

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