Today’s biblical flood victim is my neighbor. I know, I know, not very neighborly, but I think you’ll see why as we go on.
We moved into our new house in suburbia in the middle of the winter and not one single person came to introduce him or herself or welcome us to the neighborhood. However, four months later, the woman who lives behind us decided to come over and make herself known.
It started out innocently enough. She introduced herself, said hello and then said she wanted to talk about the fence. She had decided that the dilapidated picket fence in our collective backyard needed to be replaced and she wanted me to split the cost. Okay, a little forward given this is the first time she has even acknowledged us; it is her fence after all. But we are neighbors and I can see how that might be mutually beneficial. I explained to her that since we had to fix up some things when we first moved in, we didn’t have any extra money right then, but perhaps down the line we could chip in on a new fence. She was pleased and we started to discuss it.
Now to understand where I am coming from here, you have to envision my yard. It is bordered by 4 different fences. My side neighbor to the left has a 6 foot white picket fence. In the back there are about 4 sections of a 6 foot white fence that has a criss-cross pattern for the top, then the dilapidated gray picket fence about which we were just talking, then there is about 1 section of another white fence with a completely different decorative topper. I am sure from each of their yards the fences are fine, but from ours, it is a mish mash of different styles and colors and gives the appearance that we patched together our fence with sections from a junk yard.
Anyway, my discussion with my neighbor continued. When asked, I explained that my ideal would be to put up a fence that matched the style of the 4 sections of white fence that her neighbor had and that began the line of fences across my back yard. That way, at least it wouldn’t look so mismatched from my side.
No, she said. She didn’t want to have to paint a fence every year.
Okay, understandable. So I suggested that we consider the same style but in white vinyl so that we wouldn’t have to paint.
No, that wouldn’t work; it would be too expensive, she said, besides she didn’t really like the style.
As the conversation progressed and road block after road block was raised for each of my suggestions, I conceded (or so I thought) and offered that any style or type of white fence would be fine because at least that way the color would be consistent across my back yard.
“That won’t work for us,” she tells me. “I don’t want a white fence.”
“I understand that,” I say, “but if my husband and I are going to split the cost with you, it has to be something that works for us too.”
“Well we have a problem then,” she says in a very snotty voice.
By now I realize that no, I have a problem and she lives directly behind me. “No problem. “ I tell her in as neutral a tone as I can. “It is your fence, you can put up whatever you want.”
I don’t think that was unreasonable do you? You compromise and put up something, anything, that goes with the other three fences bordering my yard and I’ll split the cost. You won’t compromise, that is fine too, it is your property, your fence, I am not going to make a fuss about it, but don’t ask me to subsidize it. Really is that so horrible?
She thought so because it has been ten years since we had that conversation, I’ve given birth to three children since then and not once has she so much as said hello over the fence, which by the way, she never did replace despite the fact that parts of it fall down periodically. Instead, she gets some string and ties them back up. We, on the other hand, waited about 8 years until we could afford it and put up a beautiful border of 10 foot arborvitae trees that conceal all four of the mismatched fences, and provide a buffer from that particular neighbor. Maybe I’ll use her fence as lumber to build the ark.