Jumping the Fence

IMG_2029We were like a couple of second-story men backing down the driveway of this empty house.No one was home and we knew that. “This won’t take long,” we told each other, stepping out of the vehicle.

But not 30 seconds after we opened the van’s rear gate, a muscular woman with short curly hair from the house behind this one shot out of her back door and began trotting toward the chest-high chain link fence that separated her yard from this one.  Then, without so much as a pause for breath, she placed two hands on its forbiddingly spiky top, gave herself a boost and vaulted over it.

 “Hey!” she called, striding toward us.  Talk about your neighborhood watch! was all I could think.

As it turned out though, she wasn’t there to challenge us; she was there to help us. And we weren’t there to take stuff away from this empty house but rather to bring stuff into it. The door off the back deck had even been left open for us.

 The muscular woman must have seen that at once, taken a long look at these two old Boomers and thought, “These two sure need help!

 “We’re the Marottas,” I said, pointing to the empty house. “We’re his godparents.”

 “Name’s Maura,” she said, quickly extending a hand. Then, just as quickly, she brushed me aside and took one end of the Queen Ann Sofa we had begun pulling from the van.

 I glanced back toward her house and saw a second woman who looked to be in her early 70s also approaching the fence. She wore a sleeveless blouse and Bermuda shorts and held in one hand the longest cigarette I think I have ever seen.

 We too exchanged names.

 “That’s my daughter,” she said, lifting her chin to indicate our muscular helper, who, together with my spouse, was now carrying the couch up onto the deck of the empty house.

 “She just jumped over this fence!” I told her.

 “She’s been doin’ that for the 40 years now.”

 And so, while the two lifters tipped and tilted the sofa, trying to get it into the house, the two of us chatted.

 “She’s an electrician,” she said.

 “No kidding?”

 “Uh huh. Like her dad is  – or was, I should say.  He passed three years ago.”

 “Oh, I’m sorry,” said.

 She nodded, looked away for a minute. “Yep, not one but TWO electricians right in one family.”

 “The  International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers!” I said, rather foolishly I fear.

 But “You know it!” she said. “And don’t I thank God every night for Local 103! They took care of me.”

 We both looked toward the house, at the precise moment the two lifters were concluding that this sofa was definitely NOT going to fit through the door.

But just then, lucky for us all, our godson materialized on the back steps, home early from work.

 “Well, I’m the one who put this door on,” he smiled. “I guess I can take it off too.”

 And he went to get his tools.

 “You guys got this? If you’ve got this, I’ll take off,” said Maura. “I’m playin’ in a softball game a few towns over.”

 She gave a kind salute, waved to her mom at the fence and was gone, almost before we could thank her.

 And ten minutes later, a Queen Anne sofa, two tables and a dozen boxes were inside the house, everyone had said their goodbyes and this little stage was empty of players, leaving us with the fresh reminder of what good neighbors really are.