In the summer of ’78 we had been in our house for a few months. We were a good team. One of us had a down payment and a steady job, and the other knew how to fix stuff. I was hopeful we would have a good garden someday, but at that point I was still waiting to see what was already in the ground. What would pop up. All kinds of stuff popped up.
There was big stuff too: a locust, a hawthorn, a couple dogwoods, a Norway maple, and on the alley side, a mature ornamental cherry with big floppy flowers. Also, there was one of those structures charitably referred to, in the neighborhood, as a “garage.” It was thirty years past dilapidated. The kid across the alley liked to climb on it. I figured we were one growth spurt away from him going through the roof and straight into a lawsuit. It was a mess.
One weekend we took off for the coast and didn’t get back home until well after dark. We fell into bed and the next morning Dave got up first, as usual. He tromped downstairs to the kitchen and gazed out the window, perplexed. Gazed some more. And then came back and sat on the bed.
“You know that garage you were worried about the kids climbing on?”
“You don’t have to worry about it anymore. They burned it down.”
It was the damnedest thing. The garage and the cherry tree and half of the hedge were so completely erased that they didn’t even register as missing. In fact, my first thought, upon looking out the window, was only that there was a lot more sunlight out there. There wasn’t even any debris. Just a flat, blackened moonscape.
First thing I did was go knock on some doors. I’d avoided meeting the neighbors. I don’t remember what experience led me to that sorry attitude, but I lived in fear of having a close neighbor who drove me nuts but I couldn’t get rid of, and I thought the best thing to do was just lay low. Now, it occurred to me that whatever happened in our yard was probably pretty exciting and maybe someone would want to tell us about it.
We met a bunch of neighbors including the fireman who lived across the street and later became a city commissioner. He was a real hero that day. Everyone agreed it was highly exciting. Boy howdy! Sucker went up like a bomb, it did.
It was a shame about the cherry tree. It’s not coming back. Some things don’t. But nobody was going to miss the garage. It would be hard to overstate how ugly it was, how dangerous. It was filled with old newspapers, a neighborhood shopper that some child was probably paid to distribute once a week, and dumped in there instead. It was pure fuel, ready to roar, just ready for a child with a cigarette. Even with it finally gone, we didn’t have a clean slate: half the yard was charred. The maple dropped most of its leaves. Bits of debris, old nails and hardware, would keep turning up for years. But neighbors had turned into friends. We learned people need each other. There was so much more sunlight. So much possibility. We could almost see, now, the form a new garden could take. It would be a lot of work, but we were up for that.
And new green was already poking up from the ashes.
Like you, I avoid neighbors. But Hubby is a puppy dog when it comes to new people, so we end up meeting them all. Glad that mishap turned in a good happenstance.
We've done a 180 on neighborliness. Kept our front wall low and completely open in the back so we can talk to strangers!
Wow—an inspiring story, and a fitting memory given what’s about to transpire today. I’m surprised I didn’t sleep a lot better last night, I’m certainly feeling thankful & relieved. Thanks for sharing Murr, and yes Happy Inauguration Day 🙂
Sweet dreams, hon.
As a Delawarean, I know Joe. (Not personally, of course.) When you had a problem, and called his office, his staff would do their utmost to help you. My husband was once the recipient of his beneficence. He will be a good president.
What I don't understand is why people denigrate "career politicians." When my washing machine outflow pipes backed up, I wanted a "career plumber." When my car has a problem, I want a "career mechanic." I'm not going to some rich old jackass to fix my problems. I want someone who knows what the fuck they're doing. I know that some "career politicians" are crooks. So are some plumbers and auto mechanics. But not all of them are. The fact that I trust my plumber, auto mechanic, AND erstwhile local politician tells me that you can't just paint everyone with the same brush. Even rich white guys can be good — look how much Bill Gates gives away.
It's good to have grown-ups in the White House again. For the past four years, I felt like Macauley Culkin in Home Alone.
Paul and I watched the Inaugural events today (assisted by a bottle of champagne. Whoo!), and for the first time in any political scenario, I cried. Paul was concerned. "What's the matter?" "These are happy tears," I said. "For four years, I've been holding all this in. So…sorry." I'm just loving that there is one thing in life that I don't have to be concerned about. Joe's got our back. And — hopefully — Kamala after him.
Crap, I woke up late and missed it all. Didn't plan that. But I'm seeing it bit by bit now.
It's a wonder that your olfactory senses didn't inform you of the fire. Had it been in the spring, I would have understood that the stench from the ornamental pear tree might have hidden the stench from the ashes; but, that would not obtain in the summer.
I agree. I don't remember smelling a thing! Even when we went out there the next day. THERE WAS NOTHING LEFT.
In this part of the world wood-fired saunas last about ten years before they go up like a match. At least your garage had the decency to remove itself rather than having to be disassembled and hauled off.
It was a much easier dump run.
Sadly all neighbors do not turn out to be friends. That is why I love living in the country.
There are some people living in the country so they can run dogs and shoot things up and let vehicles rot and basically exercise their "freedom…" the business of neighbors is often similar no matter where you are.
I tend to visualize it more as Biden and Harris being stuck with filling in an overflowing cesspool and trying to clean up the rancid sewage before it totally contaminates the aquifer, but the garage story fits.
It's going to be a long haul.
Wow and interesting that nobody notified you, as the Homeowners, of this Arson! I would have been livid, as so much could have gone terribly wrong during an incident of that magnitude! Thankfully nobody got hurt and lives weren't lost and your Home didn't become compromised! Sadly, people trespassing on property that doesn't belong to them can have unsavory situations happen. I am glad in your case your Neighbors became Friends in spite of that incident, did they ever find out who caused the Fire or if it was indeed accidental or intentional? I'd of had a Need to know. I agree with Granny Annie, sadly all Neighbors do not turn out to be Friends and some Communities never bond, we moved from the last one because of that. Now we have a wonderful Community and Neighbors again, which is why we Hope this to be our Forever Home.
We basically guessed the 8-year-old kid across the alley set it on fire accidentally, probably smoking in the shelter of a bunch of kindling in the form of a garage with lots of newspaper for kindling. Funny thing–we do still love that kid, and he outed himself as the boy who burned our garage when he was 35, and we said "No, we didn't know!" and he blanched utterly, like NOW he was in trouble!
Is the garage a metaphor for the outgoing fellow? Yes indeed there will be much more sunlight going forward!
Yes. And I dunno. I know sometimes you have to burn something down to see what you can do.
I saw a wonderful film clip of one of the military bands, when, as it passed the White House early in the day, broke into a brisk rendition of "Hit the Road Jack!" The film crew howled with laughter. I think we all needed a bit of comic relief.
I've held my breath since the 6th, and found myself on the edge of tears over every inconsequential thing. Today, as I watched the ceremonies I wept again and again. Thank God the nightmare is over!
Hit The Road Jack is a way better sendoff than YMCA! WTH is that all about?
I may burn my copy of YMCA. Or, not being willing to contribute to air pollution/global warming, at least delete the file.
It seems the fire was a good thing, saving you the trouble of emptying and pulling down the garage yourselves. Shame about the cherry tree though.
I "inherited" one of the garages belonging to these flats when I was the first person to slap a padlock on it after the previous "owner" moved into a hospital, then a nursing home. Mine too was filled with undelivered newspapers and shopping catalogues and I stood by with my padlock ready while a man on a bobcat emptied it out.
I guess nobody wants to deliver those papers.
Thank you, Murr.
It's those new green shoots that we really need to pay attention to, nurture the hell out of them and ensure they grow strong and true. And also be diligent about rooting out as much of the old, rusty, spiky dangerous bits as we can. We want a grand, healthy garden; a good mix of 'weeds' and flowers, vegetables and trees. Welcoming to the natives and foreigners alike. A place to rest. A place to grow. A little bit of order, a little bit of creativity and chaos, and a lot of beauty and productivity. We are up for it, too!
Yes we the hell are. I feel sorry for the 74 million people 83 million of us stole the election from, but not too much.
Very nicely said Nisa.
We planned for a big neighborhood bonfire to celebrate inauguration. We had a big burn pile out in the meadow already to go, it was going to be great. The plan was for my husband to start it in the morning, and since it was so damn big, I figured it would still be going come dark. instead, the whole thing burned down to the ground in about four hours, while I was up in the house, working. I missed the entire thing. But I did get to watch Joe and Kamala be sworn in, so I didn’t miss all the fun!
I haven't seen a good bonfire in years. Mesmerizing.
The metaphor did not elude me.
I am hoping for a nice stretch of non-political posts.