My wife and I like to go out for a walk every day the weather’s nice. There’s a quiet warren of streets near us that’s very suitable for it. If I’m too busy working, she goes alone. She’s reserved, and she lives in a house of yammering males. She must welcome a moment of peace and solitude.
We know, or at least know of, many of our neighbors. Most everyone’s friendly, although some are very private –they’re sunny when you encounter them, but there’s a whiff of Punxsutawney Phil about them. Many stop and chat when you pass by if they’re out in their yard. Everyone at least waves.
The leaves have gone into another spectrum now, and many are already scurrying before your footfalls in the street. The sunshine is milky and the thermometer is losing interest in the indoor numbers. Summer was cool; September was cold. Life will be turning entirely inward here soon.
One of our far-flung neighbors said hullo to my wife at the apogee of her walk. She’s a hoot. She and her husband live in a big foursquare, now bereft of children, and make do with the best dog in the neighborhood. Taciturn and friendly. The dog, I mean; the neighbors are chatty and friendly.
The last big agricultural fair of the season is on in Fryeburg just now. Are we going, she asked? My wife and I enjoy such things. We just like wandering amongst the animals, big and small alike, and all the farming regalia; our little one want to go on all the rides. My wife said we were too busy and broke to go. Our neighbor immediately proposed Plan B.
She came by in the early afternoon, after our little son’s school work was done, and took my wife and the boy to her mother’s house in the next town. It’s “out in the landscape,” as my father used to term everywhere without sidewalks. And out back of mom’s house was too much garden to be considered anything less than a farm by a nine-year-old boy. It was a wonderland.
Our neighbor let him do everything there. He gathered pumpkins for our porch. He pulled carrots, and dug up beets, and parsnips, and pinched off the last cucumbers the season’s likely to see. Then he got to dig potatoes, raking them out of the rich earth and tossing them in a basket. She was an old pro, and showed him the ropes. He asked more questions than a policeman, but she didn’t mind. He was in heaven.
There’s a big outdoor sink hard by the rows, and they rinsed the prizes a bit, and himself a lot, and he came home and told me all about it. My wife mashed those potatoes, and we ate them along with some of most everything else last night at dinner, and will again tonight. They tasted better because they were from friends. My boy is in the next room right now, scrawling a thank-you note to deliver to his farmer neighbors.
I have lived in Maine for over two years now. Before that, we lived in a town in Massachusetts for fifteen years. I think I’ve determined the essential difference between the two places: It’s presumptuous, I know, but I really do believe that my new neighbors here in Maine would cross the street to piss on me if I was on fire. I wouldn’t make such an extravagant claim about the last place.