Thursday, November 6, 2008

Do I have to tell you to stay off my lawn?

For me, one of the "challenges" of moving into a house, on a street, with other houses is, well, the people who live in those houses. I'm not someone who really wants to interact with other people. I detest small talk. I hate going to parties - at least the ones with a high percentage of people I don't know.

(When I went on a retreat with my classmates in Grade 8, one of the first activities we had to complete was a "coded" name tag. In one corner, you were supposed to rank how outgoing you were, with 10 being the highest level. I chose "8" and absolutely believed it, but discovered over the next couple of years - aka, the social nightmare that is high school - that at most I was probably a "6.")

We took ownership of the house a few weeks before we actually moved in. Of course, we still came to the house almost every day (our! very! own! house!) and within a day or two almost all of our neighbours had stopped to introduce themselves. Our one next door neighbour (stage left if I'm standing on the porch and the road is the audience), actually stopped her car and got out to meet us. Now I'm all for saying "hello" if you are on your way to or from the car, but it made me a little nervous that she actually stopped driving for an introduction.

I would describe her as slightly eccentric. A grandmother with a streak of pink hair; a motormouth who tells us she doesn't "chit-chat"; a self-defined carefree, unstructured gardener who nonetheless carefully arranges seating areas and places decorative stakes at the boundary of her property.

Fast forward a few weeks, and we have been living in the house for about a month. My husband is thrilled to finally have a yard, and he has been spending spare moments pruning the overgrown trees. (Sometimes Will and I hear the "toot" of his car locking, but then Daddy doesn't appear. We find him outside, pruning shears in hand, cutting off errant branches in his dress clothes.)

So we are standing on our deck looking out over the yard, and my husband asks me if I have picked up the branches he cut on the weekend. I laugh. This is not something that would even occur to me to do.

"No, seriously. I left them in a pile in the yard."

I look back and there is definitely no pile of branches. In fact, there is a full lawn bag next to the far shed. It has a "president's choice" logo on the side. I had picked up some lawn bags at Walmart. "That's not even one of our lawn bags."

"But who would come into our yard and pick up branches? That's crazy, right? Crazy!"

"Maybe it's like the monster in Frankenstein who cuts all that wood for the poor family . . ."

"Seriously! That's trespassing! Who would do something like that?"

Suddenly we see a flash of pink hair through the bushes, and our neighbour materializes through the leaves.

"Hi guys! I just wanted to let you know that I was cutting my lawn today, and I noticed that you hadn't cut yours. You probably don't have a lawn mower yet. So anyway I mowed your front yard and was going to do the back, but I didn't have a chance. So I just picked up those branches and pulled a few weeds from your path here."

My husband's mouth drops open. Neither one of us knows what to say.

I go first. "Um, thank you?"

My husband starts using his best Judge Judy voice. "We were concerned that someone would actually come into our yard." But even he doesn't know how to continue.

"Well, that was me!" she says brightly. "Just didn't want you to think there was anything strange going on!"

She vanishes as quickly as she appeared. My husband looks at me. "That is crazy, right?"

"I mean, it could be interpreted as something nice . . ."

"But if I said to you, I'm just going to go next door and mow the lawn and pick up her branches, maybe pull a few weeds, what would you say?"

"That's just crazy!"

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