I have grown up in a subburb where high wooden fences stand sentinels around everyone’s backyard. Not only is it common practice, it is mandated by the city. I enjoyed the privacy it brought, and thought it was common practice everywhere. (In that nieve thinking of someone who has never been outside California.) I knew that if you lived in the country it was different, of course. That you had a different kind of fencing to keep your animals safe. I figured that since your house was pretty far from another, you didn’t need a tall wall to protect your privacy.
I vividly remember my first trip to see my Grandparents on the west slope of Colorado, so many years ago. House after house after house only separated by cute picket fencing, or stone pillared garden walls with log beams, if anything at all. All of them hardly higher than a five year olds chest and all of them ornamental. Dogs were lazily laying on porches or in dog houses. Some of them would walk the property line as you walked past, then happily go about their business when you moved on. Then I saw the children of this small bit of paradise. It was like a scene from an old Andy Griffith episode. Running freely from yard to yard, picking up friends as they went. Those memories crept back into my sole over the weekend as my family went to work on our own fence.
Squishy was a diligent helper as the fence quickly came down. At first all I could see was the magical moment happening before me. A little boy absorbing life lessons from the men in his life. You see, I believe these are the moments that teach a child without words, or books. The moments that shape who they will become. I want my son to feel blisters on his hands, and know they are creating something strong. I was so mesmerized by that scene, I almost missed the real magic that happened. Once the fence came down something unexpected crept over…or I should say someone unexpected sprang over, because spunky is anything but quiet and slow. She is a ball of wonderful energy.
The kids had met in passing, but a simple facial recognition was as far as their familiarity went. That all changed this weekend. She was playing in her backyard, when squishy decided she would not just be a neighbor, she would be his friend.
They were basically inseparable from the moment that decision was made, running between yards, having private picnics, and laughing at each other’s horrible jokes. I felt a pang of regret as the new fence pickets were too quickly closing off the yards once again. Their freedom was getting closed off as well. As we said goodbye after the workday, and went inside for dinner I could feel the sadness pulsing off both little bodies.
It’s been a week, and Spunky has joined almost all of our after dinner walks. This is the childhood I want for my son. Where he has the freedom to make his own friends, and choose his own play. So, while I can’t do much about our fence blocking out the world, I can make sure our gate and front door is always open to new friends.