We have lovely next-door neighbors--I'll call them the Wilsons. It's an apt nickname, actually, because there is an interesting relationship that has developed between my second-born son and Mr. Wilson. It's reminiscent of the old Mr. Wilson/Dennis the Menace cartoon.
Except the difference between the cartoon Mr. Wilson and our Mr. Wilson is that ours is quiet and kind and gentlemanly and unendingly patient.
The difference between Dennis the Menace and my Stephen is...well, there really isn't one.
The Wilson's house is a quiet one, with a yard groomed so meticulously that Hubs jokingly refers to it as Augusta National.
And then there's our yard, with its half-dug holes (in a vain attempt to find buried treasure), dirty socks, bikes piled in the driveway, and a wide assortment of abandoned plastic weaponry. (Not to mention the two parents who live in this house, frazzled to the point that yard work is the last thing on our minds.)
I can best illustrate the difference thus: when our two houses were built, the original owners planted identical trees on either side of the fence line, just a few feet apart from each other. Mr. Wilson's looks like this:
Notice the perfectly rounded shape, and the evenly edged flower bed.
Now, here's our version:
Notice the sagging branches, and the rope, bricks and COAT HANGER threaded through the limbs in an unsuccessful attempt at a treehouse. We're a class act.
But back to Mr. Wilson and Stephen.
They met shortly after we moved in, five years ago. Mr. Wilson was in his back yard, carefully cleaning out his gorgeous (and spotless) pool. Stephen had climbed up into our backyard fort--if you climb into the very tip-top, you can look down into the Wilsons' yard. Stephen (then three and a half) quietly observed Mr. Wilson's diligent work, until he couldn't stand it any longer. "You gonna get in that thing?" he hollered.
And thus was forged a unlikely friendship.
My chatty Stephen meanders over to Mr. Wilson's house whenever he can. There was the day one spring he went next door to demonstrate the best way to do arm-pit farts. Frustrated that they weren't loud enough, he assured the genteel Mr. Wilson that "I'll be able to do these a lot better when I'm sweaty."
And when my ever-entrepreneurial boy made paper airplanes and decided to sell them door-to-door for a dollar (a DOLLAR! Each!) it was Mr. Wilson who faithfully bought four of them.
If he has ever grown weary of his noisy neighbors, he hasn't said a word. He faithfully tosses the stray soccer balls and shoes and frisbees back over the fence without complaint. He brings over stacks of coupons for freebies from the large company he works for. And he doesn't complain when my boys occasionally cannot resist the urge to walk barefoot in his inches-thick grass.
In an age when neighbors don't always know each other, we know we've stumbled onto a real blessing having Mr. Wilson next door. He is demonstrating quiet dignity to my boys, and they're....well, they're demonstrating arm-pit farts.
It's a pretty good trade.
This post was originally published on November 16, 2007.