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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