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.


Seek and Ye Shall Find

A last glimpse at summer: I was a guest at a beach house, sitting like Ahab on the uppermost deck,when two young families arrived to take possession of the rental next door. A pair of little girls tumbled from the car and raced instantly to their house’s upper balcony, a boy about four began begging his dad for a game of catch and a toddler in a diaper was swooped up, unceremoniously sniffed and told he needed a new one.

After ten or 15 minutes the adults gathered on the front porch. “There’s no front yard,” said one. “But there’s this nice skinny side yard,” said another. At the beach you don’t always see a lot of land around a rental.

As I half-read my book and half-watched I sorted them out finally: two sets of young parents, four young children between them and a visiting couple who looked to be there just for the day.  I went back to my book in earnest, then after an additional 30 minutes scanning the horizon for the great white whale. climbed down a level to the large lower deck – where some 90 minutes later, the little girls appeared.

“We need to borrow some butter, can we borrow butter?” said one. “Also syrup.” smiled the other. “We’re having waffles!” they cried as one, too exhilarated at this stunning fact to keep it  to themselves any longer.

“Let’s see what we can do!” said another houseguest and brought them right to our mutual host who reached into his fridge and pulled out the desired items like two rabbits out of a hat.

“Where are you guys from?” I asked the little girls once we were back on the deck. They named two towns out of state.

 “How old are you?”

They were seven, born just six weeks apart. “Our mothers are best friends” they said with great satisfaction, their arms now draped round each other’s shoulders.

“And where are your husbands?” asked this other houseguest,who had already gotten them to say that they’d bring him waffles in the morning.

“Well our BROTHERS are two and four!” the said while their merry laughter added their all but audible thought that  grownups really were very  silly. 

“There’s a block party tonight at dark, right across the grass there,” said the same teasing man. You should come!”

But they shook their heads. “We’ll be in bed by then,” one said, too kind to say aloud that anyone with any sense at all is in bed by dark.

So they didn’t come to the block party though their friendly parents did, taking turns so as to guard the sleeping youngsters and a lovely two couples they were who had driven all the way to the shore on this day, in their excitement forgetting all about what they might feed their kids for supper or what that menu might need in the way of tasty extras.

Alas for our teasing friend, no waffles appeared for him in the morning. What did come was this nice card, personally delivered by Miss Aubrey and Miss Lilly, representing their joint gratitude and even the gratitude of their non-husbandly little brothers Sawyer and Finn.