Monday, August 25, 2008

neighborly

As the bounce house started slowly inflating, the compressor rocking and the form taking shape I looked at J and said it's a rite of passage, renting a freaking bouncy thing. He laughed and nodded and kept putting beers in the cooler as if that balanced out the fact that a dozen kids were about to descend on our little patch of grass.

The bouncy was technically in our neighbor's lawn, a man who we have lived next door to for years and to whom we almost never speak. J mows his lawn twice a month, the tradition started about two years ago after we saw him kneeling one day awkwardly trying to snip at the grass with a pair of scissors. J started mowing it after that day and the man stays silent yet somehow it feels more neighborly. When J asked if we could take over his lawn for a couple hours the man responded quite kindly, uttering a sentence or two which was the most words we'd exchanged all year. The morning of the party I saw the man come out of his house with a lone plastic lawnchair, he walked over to where our other mismatched chairs were beginning to gather and sat it down beside them and turned and walked back into his house, never looking at me or saying a word. He made this same silent contribution to a party we had a few years ago, we returned it to his porch the next morning with a couple of beers stowed underneath.

The party was all we could have hoped for, good friends and family came and M preened and basked in the attention and the kids jumped their hearts out and ate too much cake and the parents and friends enjoyed the afternoon on mismatched chairs. The two hours extended into four and once everyone had gone and the clean up commenced J deposited the lone chair back on the next porch with a couple of beers again tucked underneath, our neighborly ritual over for the year and probably the last one we'll ever share.

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27 comments:

Jennifer said...

So strangly beautiful. I bet you and your little family means more to that man than you'll ever know.

And YAY for a happy, jumpy party for M. FOUR!

Little Monkies said...

This gives me an ache in my heart for the next door neighbor we left behind in Seattle. A spry 80+ year old who lived at home, brought wonderful little treats for Monkey, and told me wonderful tales of her life growing up. When we left, she gave me two beautiful pillowcases, hand embroidered years ago before arthritis made it too hard and tucked away in a cedar chest for safekeeping. I cried when she gave them to me, smelling the cedar and looking at the crinkly wrapping she'd bought special to encase something she'd made with her own hands. I think of her often and wonder how she is. What a funny web we weave as neighbors. Unspoken, sometimes, but tangible nonetheless.

painted maypole said...

this is a wonderful and quiet example of ways we can be good neighbors to each other

Kyla said...

Our neighbor edges our lawn and rakes the leaves sometimes in the fall, like he just isn't ready to be done when his yard is finished. We appreciate it, though.

Mad said...

He sounds like my kind of neighbour.

meno said...

What a sweetly satisfying exchange.

flutter said...

this made me so happy

patches said...

Exchanges can be remarkably meaningful in the absence of words. Small things matter.

wheelsonthebus said...

I love your posts.

Janet said...

Dude! I have three kids and haven't yet rented the bouncy thing. You have arrived.

Happy birthday to your bouncing bundle of four.

Beck said...

That made me choke up a bit....
and a BOUNCY THING? You rented a BOUNCY THING? I SUCK AS A MOTHER.

QT said...

Ah yes, the bouncy thing...even I know that is the first thing on the list when planning the little kid shindig :)

The part about your neighbor is somehow so sweet and sad at the same time.

marymurtz said...

Send him a postcard from the next place. He'll never forget you, and it sounds like he's fond of you guys anyway, in that curmudgeonly way old guys have. I thought this post was so bittersweet...lovely.

Hetha said...

So your M is one year older? Happy Day then sweet M!

Anjali said...

Jen,

You turn the most routine acts into the most kind and generous. If it was a birthday, many happy returns to M.

crazymumma said...

He reminds me, in your telling, of our Dmitro, who lived next door to us in our first home.

Happy Bouncy Birthday M!

Russell said...

You know, as I read this, I realized that to have a neighbor like that is near perfection.

I have had neighbors that never said a word TO me, but had everything in the world to say ABOUT me... to the other neighbors, that is.

I find myself wondering if, when you are old an grey, this will have been the best neighbor you ever had. Sounds like, to date, he would have been that to me.

Happy birthday to the young one.

Oh, and how does the insurance for the bouncy castle type thing work? I can see horrific bloodletting as the result of unplanned toddler collision being the norm.

Magpie said...

First off, any kid birthday party with beer for parents is the right kind of party by me.

Second - that neighbor? Priceless.

Belated happy birthday to the girl.

Amanda said...

Chills, honey, lovely head to toe chills.

Susanne said...

That party sounds great.

And it sounds like you're starting to say goodbye to your home already...

Gwen said...

I liked Mary's idea; people really do love postcards.

And, even after having lived in the 'burbs for 4 years, I can proudly claim never to have rented a bouncy thing (but now that you've done it .....).

Amy Y said...

He'll never have neighbors like you again... I'm sure he will never forget you guys!

hele said...

I so wanted him to sit down with you.

mamatulip said...

Have I told you lately how much I love your writing?

I love your writing. So much.

Tis I. said...

Sounds Perfect. Happy Birthday to your beautiful little girl, Jen! I love to read about you and your family; it warms my heart.

KC said...

Happy day. The moonbounce. The glee. I love it. Did you get on it too? Come on, admit it.

monkey said...

so beautiful, this story. so beautiful. it's marinating in me right now. breathing small kindnesses into the fractures. thank you.