A hundred little moments show we’re not in Kansas anymore.
I handed off the leaf blower backpack contraption to Eric. He was going to show our oldest son Daniel how to operate it, too. We were belatedly attending to fall chores with a new tool. We moved in the middle of leaf season, but the yard got lost in the general busy-ness of the transition. If things had gone differently that Tuesday afternoon, I might have stood and gawped at the DocOc awkwardness of the device. It reminded me of the flamethrower pack used by the villain in one of the Iron Man movies.
But as I stood in the driveway, rake in hand, on the springiest of spring evenings, a neighbor paused at the edge of our front yard with her dog.
She was looking at a motley assortment of pots in the middle of the lawn. I had transplanted a variety of seedlings earlier in the day and decided that at near 80 degrees, the tomatoes and cucumbers deserved the sunshine as much as I did for the day. So my boys and I hauled them out of the basement and into the light.
At first I cocked my head, waiting to see if she would continue on, still half convinced that there was an invisibility shield around me. Though, admittedly she seemed to be able to see my plants. She lingered another moment, then looked up and smiled. At me. I smiled back and strolled down the short driveway to where she stood.
“Hello. Gorgeous day isn’t it?” I offered.
“I was noticing your plants. They’re big already.”
“We started them inside a while ago with a grow lamp. Well, we staggered them. Some I just moved out of the seed pods today,” I shared. “I’m Katie. I’m not sure we’ve had a chance to meet.”
“Oh, I’ve met your middle school son a couple of times while Holly and I were walking in the mornings.” She patted Holly’s furry golden head and adjusted the leash in her hand.
And so it began.
By the time our chat ended, I knew the story of the elderly dog lover, Cookie Jack,” who used to live next door, and about two land preserves nearby that have good trails for days like these. I knew about how Holly was rescued from Istanbul, Turkey a little more than a year ago by a Golden Retriever Relief Society. And I discovered that my neighbor used to be a teacher.
By the time our chat ended, the cyborg leaf blower had run out of fuel and been returned to the garage. Husband and sons were scattered through the house in a pre-dinner holding pattern at half-past-dinnertime.
I didn’t quite figure out where in the neighborhood she lives. Daniel’s been helping me annotate a Google Earth map of our various neighbors’ names. There are so many!
Names, you see, are a bit of a weakness of mine. I remember Holly’s name. Our friendly neighbor used it several times and it was written on her dog’s collar. Cookie Jack might actually have been Cookie Joe, but the house is empty now, so I trust he won’t mind.
For a decade or more we lived, more or less alone, at the end of a football field long driveway, along a main-ish road. We lived across from a private high school which was convenient for playing in their fields and rinks, and which was responsible for our embarking on a hockey life, but the relationship was one-sided.
We’re not in Kansas anymore.
I’m relishing found moments of connection with more neighbors than I can map. Gradually. As we all emerge from our winter seclusion. No doubt I’ll need to ask for their names again–maybe it was Carol–but perhaps a few friendships will blossom along with my summer garden.