(Before I relate this tale of neighborly autumnal good deed-ery I’m going to qualify it by saying that I almost didn’t write this because parts of it involve references to religion and for all my irreverence towards essentially everything, religion has traditionally been a taboo hands-off run-in-the-other-direction topic for me. Whereas it can unite it can also be powerfully divisive; so that being said I hope no one takes offense to this post as it is all meant in good fun and happened pretty much exactly as I’m about to tell it.)
Last Saturday morning began as a typical one for me and the boys. Kathleen was working her regular weekly 4-hour shift at the dry cleaner down the road and I was fulfilling the role of the archetypal bungling father by chasing a half naked Adam around the house with a diaper. Adam was toddling just out of my grasp, his unbuttoned onesie flapping behind him like tuxedo jacket tails, he looked like a concert pianist escaping a prostate exam; and Jack was doing his best Carol Ann Freeling impersonation practically french kissing the television screen while being mesmerized by an episode of Cartoon Network’s Ben10. So like I said, a pretty typical Saturday morning.
After finally catching up with Adam and applying a figure four leg lock to get his diaper on him I released the hold and walked over the front window to catch my breath. What to my wondering eyes should appear, but around 20 people with rakes descending on the front lawn of my neighbor Harry’s house. Whereas I love the spectacular explosion of foliage that autumn brings the Northeast, I despise the fall-out that litters my little corner of suburbia and the exercise of a futile clean-up effort I annually partake in. You see, I have one tree on my property which drops a manageable amount of leaves on my front lawn, but I am surrounded by neighboring properties that have trees with higher Leaf counts than an Icelandic Phone book. One tree in particular, the most egregious offender, occupies the front lawn of my neighbor Harry’s house. The same Harry, old curmudgeon that he is, who reminds me every winter to not throw “my” snow on his property because it floods his basement in the spring when it melts.
I picked up Adam and walked out onto my front porch. Harry was talking to one of the Rakers and I yelled over him in good-natured mostly joking tone, “Hey Harry, since most of the leaves on my front lawn are yours, why not send the crew over my way when they’re done over there?” and he laughed and I laughed and the Rakers laughed and the forest echoed with laugher and I turned and walked back in the house. No sooner had the door closed though did 4 of the Rakers break away from the flock and begin raking the leaves on my front lawn. “Damnit I was kidding.” I mumbled under my breath as I opened the front door. “I was joking. You don’t have to do that. Really.” I yelled to them, but they only smiled and nodded and continued raking.
Quickly getting the boy’s shoes and coats on, we soon joined the Rakers on the front grass. I approached an older woman who told me here name was Barbara. “You really don’t have to rake my lawn. I was joking with Harry and besides, Jack was actually looking forward to raking later anyway.” She told me the group was from Harry’s church and they were making a day of raking the lawns of some of the older congregation members. “Well that is mighty neighborly of you. I really appreciate you including me in your day.” Jack then asked if he could help them, so we retrieved a rake from our own garage and while Jack basically just pushed leaves around I chased Adam from our lawn to Harry’s lawn and back to our lawn. Just as Adam made a detour into the backyard of our neighbor on the other side of our house; the Rakers were dragging the last of the bags to curb. Jack tagged along as I tried to corral Adam and we were about ½ down our neighbor’s driveway when I sensed someone behind me. It was Barbara.
“Thanks again Barbara for helping me out with those leaves. You saved me about two hours of work later.” I quipped reaching for Adam as he tried to venture further up the driveway. “Well we do it out of Christian Charity and out of our love of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Oh, boy here it comes, I thought. She took another step towards me. “It’s in the spirit of Jesus that we are helping those who need help today and it’s our love of the Lord that fills our hearts. You do know what it takes to get to heaven don’t you?” “Yardwork?” I answered. Barbara didn’t smile. Nervously I blurted out, “We’ve had both boys baptized and we plan to raise them Christian. We know what it takes to get into heaven.” Even though that’s all true…Whose voice was that coming out of mouth? Barbara seemed satisfied with my answer and before I knew it she had rejoined the flock as they loaded into two vans and drove off to the next yard.
I figured since we were already outside that I would at least start raking the backyard, but as I walked back to the front with the boys and looked around I realized they had taken my rake. They eventually returned it to us later in the day, leaning it piously against the garage in the late afternoon sun. I joked with Kathleen that I think the rake is now ordained to perform marriages in New York State and she smiled the smile she smiles when I say something like that.
By the time the sun had set though, both Harry’s and our front yards looked as though the Rakers had never been there at all. I was glad the leaves were back because at least now I won’t feel bad about flooding Harry’s basement in the spring.