A few weeks ago our neighbor rapped on our screen door. “Can I mow the front part of your yard?” He was out mowing his easement, anyway, and said he figured why not do ours too. Uh, yes? Please?
The beau and I said our thanks and then promptly huddled together at the window for a conference. Should we be embarrassed about this? The grass was pretty tall, but in all fairness, it had stormed almost every day since its last cut. We hadn’t had any kind of chance to mow. He probably wasn’t out to prove a point. He probably was just being nice! Just like how I, in a fit of goodwill, had once shoveled their section of sidewalk after a snowfall because I was out shoveling mine anyway.
Then another rap at the door. The neighbor had actually begun mowing our whole yard, not just the part by the sidewalk, but the battery on his mower had died. The lawn was now sporting a bit of a squared-off mohawk. “I’ll come back tomorrow and finish it up,” he said. Oh! As much as I would have loved that, I have enough sense to know that goodwill has an expiration date. If we ignored the hack job I knew he would finish it out of obligation, and the magic of the good deed would be gone. So the next afternoon I dragged our push mower out of the basement and commenced grappling with it back and forth across the grass like I was trying to subdue a small bear. No sooner had I cut the last blade than the neighbor appeared on his porch. “I see I’m too late!” he said. “Next time just let me do the whole thing — I really don’t mind.”
I guess he wasn’t lying, because he has since cut our lawn again. He also voluntarily weeded it, which made me double over in extreme discomfort due to the fact that he wasted even more of his afternoon out of sheer kindness to us. Like hey, guy, you could have been spread-eagle in your Barcalounger noshing Totino’s pizza rolls and streaming the World Cup instead of out there on your hands and knees yanking crabgrass out of our dumb yard!
We’ve been watching for an opportunity to mow his lawn in return, but he may never let it get that long. In the meantime I lamely baked a thank-you loaf of zucchini bread and left it on their front stoop with a card. I guess this is just the way it is now, forever trading favors with the folks next door, but I can think of much worse things to be trading.
The other weekend, to celebrate the fact that we like sushi, the beau and I went out for sushi. We had a leisurely dinner and before driving home we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. The blue of twilight was creeping across lawns and settling in the house eaves. It felt good to be outside.
We made an arbitrary right turn and came across a porch full of people talking and laughing. Nice night for a party, I thought, but the thought was interrupted by the porch occupants cajoling us to come join them. We froze on the sidewalk for several seconds, nervous smiles on our faces, as we tried to ascertain whether or not this was a joke. It wasn’t.
Up the steps we went; handshakes all around and a cascade of names I dutifully repeated and immediately forgot. The porch people wanted to know our life stories and were eager to share theirs. Presently another unsuspecting couple came down the sidewalk and our enthusiastic hosts leaned over the railing to wave them up, too. More introductions! These folks had just eaten at the same restaurant we ate at, what do you know about that? A plastic cup of wine was thrust into my hand and I scooted down the bench to make more room. The porch was getting crowded and bodies were silhouettes against the light. I asked the vague outline of one of the women who’d invited us up why they were spending their Saturday night flagging down strangers to talk to them. “We like learning about new people,” she said, smiling and shrugging.
It was fully dark by the time we tottered back down the steps and found our way back to the car. I’m not sure I like new people enough to learn about them, let alone on my own front porch, but I’m sure glad some people do.
A few days ago the beau was out running errands when his car died. I drove to meet him and we were standing in the parking lot of the strip mall time forgot, cars nose-to-nose and cables snaking battery-to-battery, when a dude carrying a paper bag approached the beau. Over the noise of my engine I couldn’t make out their exchange. After he left the beau came over to my side. “That was interesting,” he murmured.
“What did that guy say to you?” I asked.
“He said he was on his way to the airport and he wanted to give us the rest of his local craft beer and weed, since he couldn’t take it with him. He said it looked like we could use it.”
For several moments we regarded the bag resting on the cracked asphalt; a modest offering of generous means. I wondered whether the phrase “Colorado Nice” was already a thing, and if not I decided to try to make it so.
“I’m stoked to try that beer,” the beau remarked.