We have a small side yard housing our shed, our laundry tree and a small vegetable garden. It also has our rain bucket, an unruly climbing rose bush and a flower garden that is, at best, 50% weeds. This side garden has an ugly black chain-link fence dividing it from our neighbour's yard. Poor neighbour because the front picture window of his living room looks straight through that fence to our ungodly mess. We have often talked about replacing this ugly old fence with a new wooden fence, like the one around the rest of our house.
Next door to us lives Iain. Iain keeps an immaculate yard. It's not that he's a yard snob though. You can tell that he genuinely loves the upkeep. If he has a week of vacation, he likes to just putter around his yard, assemble things, trim his trees, plant new flowers, mulch, weed, mow, fertilize. Iain's parents own a farm, so I feel sometimes like he can truly appreciate what I am trying to do with my puny little vegetable patch. However, my husband and I worry. Our yard is often littered with hosed-down booster seats and water tables or splashing pools, colourful kids watering cans and various other kid paraphernalia. It's a harsh juxtaposition to our neighbour's orderly lifestyle.
So Mark brought up the point to me that perhaps we should ask Iain if he wanted to share in the cost and work of building a new wooden fence between our yards. It felt like the next reasonable step. There is no doubt, it would be far more becoming. It seemed like we'd probably be doing our neighbour a favour. So the next time we were outside at the same time, I called to Iain over the fence and I asked him. He looked at me with a puzzled expression. He seemed kind of shocked. He wondered what kind of fence we wanted. He said if we truly wanted one, he'd certainly help out and share in the work. But he said it was not of pressing importance to him. He said it was lower than the lowest thing on his priority list. This man with the impeccable lawn didn't care about the ugly black chain-link fence separating our yards and it surprised me. When I took the information back to my husband, he pondered for a moment and then said, "There is something neighbourly about that fence." And I started to think about how our relationship with Iain had developed through that fence.
For Christmas, I bought Mark a tool organizer. It was huge. So I asked Iain if I could keep it in his garage. He helped me unload it and then he did me one better; He assembled it. And when spring rolled around, I asked to borrow his staple gun to put up my chicken wire fence to keep the rabbit out of my garden; He didn't lend me his staple gun. Instead he added a few new stakes, put the fence up himself AND added my gate. I tried to grow morning glories through the fence to beautify it, and I told Iain about my vision. And then none of them grew for weeks and weeks. And then suddenly, a few sprouted on HIS side of the fence and he carefully spooled them up with stakes and coaxed them and trained them to climb towards our shared divide. For Halloween, he didn't just have candy for Cole, he had a little gift basket with Cole's name on it. When I'm away, he waters my garden over the fence. And one year, my husband requested only one type of crop from my gardening endeavours: watermelon. So I planted them beside that ugly black chain-link fence and they grew up the fence. And when the little melons began to sprout, not even knowing what they were or how much my husband valued them, Iain carefully cradled them in cheesecloth hammocks knotted to the fence so the vines wouldn't break under the weight of the growing watermelons.
Iain said if we built a wooden fence between us, he'd miss watching our kidlets running around, biting into our green peppers and splashing about in the wading pool. And I'd miss watermelon hammocks and so much more. So we've changed our minds. We don't want a new fence at all.