Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Beyond the Fence

Our little neighborhood is probably a lot like most other neighborhoods in America. Cul-de-sacs, middle class families, a few too many CC & Rs...

But one thing that seems a bit unique in our neighborhood is the number of retired folks who live here. For the most part, we love this. And for the most part, they seem to like us. Or tolerate us. There are a few that won't wave back at us - after all, they moved here so they wouldn't have to be bothered with neighbors! - and one who complains when we park and load our e-bay motorhome in the driveway. But there are others who truly seem pleased to see younger families in the area.

The man on our corner is a retired Air Force pilot. Every morning, around 8:30, he carries out a perfectly folded triangular flag and raises it on his flagpole. Then, he steps back about 20 feet and salutes. Every evening, he reverses the routine, meticulously folding the cloth for the following morning. My children bring him a plate of cookies every Veteran's Day and wave furiously whenever they see him.

There's another man who walks his Labradoodle every day along the path. He always stops and visits with the children (in a non-cootie kinda way). Being recently transplanted from the "Old Country," his Basque accent is unmistakable but I nod like I understand him perfectly, and he teases me about trying lamb shanks one of these days.

Why am I describing all of this to you?

Because this morning, as we were eating breakfast, Sugs looked out the window and said, "Mama, our slave is here."

I saw no one outside, and figured this was a three-year old imagination in well-rested, morning overdrive.

"Hmmm...what's our slave doing?" I asked distractedly, scooping steamy oatmeal into bowls.

"Picking flowers," she answered. "Can you put more brown sugar on my oatmeal, please?"

Finally, I turned around and really gave that window my full attention.

Indeed, there was an older woman right outside our property line. For a moment, I was puzzled. She kept dipping out of sight, down low where we could only see splashes of her red shirt through the holes in my unstained fence.

Was she looking at us through the slats in the fence?

Reporting us to the homeowner's association for all the childrens' toys in the yard?

Then I figured it out. Apparently, it is not enough to pull the weeds in your own yard. Now - at least in our neighborhood full of puttering retirees looking for a mission - it is essential that we pull the weeds that grow in the natural greenbelt. Thankfully, the folks who thought up this mission do not shove their passionate pursuits down our throats - they come and do it for you!

Dear little lady dipped out of sight, then back up again, her tightly-permed hair fluffing in the wind as she stuffed the unsightly weeds into a big, black trash bag with gusto. Up and down she went, busy behind my fence.

Of course, upon realizing her mission, the mother guilt set in. I scrunched down in my chair, hoping she wouldn't look up and see Miss 31-year-old Lazy Bones eating oatmeal while the 70-plus "slave" pulled weeds.

So, I am officially telling you that if you have the chance, consider moving to a neighborhood full of retired people. Yes, I know some of them can be a bit ornery, but so can young folks. The added bonus is that retired people get bored, and when they get bored, they take it upon themselves to find a mission. Maybe, just maybe, you will be their mission. Or perhaps your neighborhood weeds will become their mission.

Just don't refer to them as "our slave."


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