I need a fence. Not a big one, necessarily, but at least something to say “this is my yard, please stay out of it.” Maybe one of those waist-high picket fences, the kind that seem to come with flowers growing in front of them. Or maybe a hedge would do it – thick and prickly and high enough that nosy eyes would have to go upstairs to look in.
We live at the corner of two streets on the edge of town, with a little patch of grass beside and behind our little house. But our little patch of grass runs right up into the little patches of grass of our neighbors, one behind us and one to the side. And it’s the one to the side – the sweet, older woman who brought me a birthday present and apologized 15 million times for asking whether or not my husband and I are married – who’s the problem.
To be fair, I knew she’d be a problem the day we looked at the place. The landlord asked her to show us around, and after five minutes I knew the names and occupations and some of the shortcomings of most of the neighbors: the police chief lives up on the hill, sometimes his deputies drive through just to remind everyone he’s there; the house across the street has just one man with THREE rooms, and LOTS of books – makes you wonder what kind of a person he is. It’s college boys in the house behind us, and they WILL leave their beer bottles lying around, they just don’t listen to her. The single mom who just moved in leaves stuff out too, but she warned the landlord that would happen so it’s not her fault.
When we pulled away from the house, she was peering out the window, waving to us.
So I knew she’d be watching us. What I didn’t expect is for her to be constantly walking through our yard and moving our things – all in the name of being a good neighbor. She brings in our trash cans after the trucks have come through but before I’ve made it home from work. She re-pins my towels on the clothesline when one side comes loose in the wind, and makes a special rod to prop it up. She picks up trash that blew off the train tracks and landed in my back yard, and comes running out of the house, scolding like a squirrel, when a neighbor’s kid drops pebbles through the grate into the culvert that runs by my front porch. She really wanted to fix the chair that was near the edge of that front porch, but I fixed it before she had a chance.
I could ask her to stop, but the poor woman would beg forgiveness for the next 10 years; she actually apologized for bringing me a birthday present. For the moment I’m double pining my clothes and watching for trash before she spies it and hoping she finds something better to do in the near future.
Mainly, I feel bad for her. She seems so afraid. She rescued a dog from the shelter, told me he had been abused and so she had to be careful who she let come near him, he doesn’t like people. But I wonder about her past, and how she came to think she had to apologize for everything.
And I’m also wondering about hedges. How long do they take to grow?