Sunday, October 5, 2008

My fence

Our house is on a 1/8 acre lot. It is a good size and we have a nice size backyard. We have a nice patio set with a really awesome umbrella with solar powered lights that make it wonderful to sit outside in the evenings. A kickin gas grill, kiddie pool, sand and water table, a clothes line, and lots of toys. And a six foot tall fence to keep us in and everybody else in the neighborhood out.

When I was growing up we had a house in a 1/4 acre lot. The Wellmans lived next door, Mrs. Fisher lived around the corner and beside her lived the pastor and his wife. Behind them lived my friend Sarah's family. There were on my block eight kids between the ages of four and ten. Nobody had a fence around their yard. There were two grapevines on my block and early in the morning in the summers all us kids would stuff ourselves on the grapes. We would wander from yard to yard playing in this huge space. All the adults and parents would watch out for one another. The preacher and Mrs. Fischer both had huge vegetable gardens and we always had fresh veggies because they grew far more than they could ever eat.

There are three little girls that live in the house beside me and there are two little kids who live behind us. Once in a while we will see them over the fence, but we don't know their names. They are very disconnected from us. In our little neighborhood there are tons of kids, but they never have the chance to play outside with each other because everybody has a six foot fence keeping people out.

Our society has set up this general attitude of isolation, and it is part of what is leading to our downfall. Would we be demanding more stuff if we had actual relationships with those in our neighborhoods? Would we need two hundred dollar a month digital cable packages if you were sitting in your back yard at night and your neighbor could walk over and you could have a light conversation? Would we care more about those who lived around us?

When I was seven my mom and I were in a near fatal car accident. We were hit head on driving home from my aunts house by a sleeping man. My mom went through the windshield and both of us had severe problems that we both still struggle with today. After our wreck our neighbors took care of us. Mrs. Fischer brought us meals for months. Yet when the woman across the street had twins earlier this year, nobody did anything for her.

There is a saying "Good fences make good neighbors" I say, good fences make crappy neighborhoods. Humans began settling together for several reasons, one of which is that we are social creatures and need to be in fellowship with other humans. Yet creature comforts, the internet, television, fences...they have turned us into something that we weren't meant to be, isolated.


Michelle Stille said...

You know, Erin, I think we would make good neighbors! I have plans to live in an eco village/planned community when this whole military thing is over.

Anonymous said...

I agree! I am glad that we don't have a fence (though it would be nicer for our dog). But I am thankful that I've been able to stay home with the boys and spend time on our porch, talking and living life with our neighbors... some like us, some very different from us, but we live our lives together. We share food from our gardens or extra that we have, they bring us clothes and hand-me-downs for the boys, we talk about real things together.

Linda said...

We live on 1/4 acre, and all 3 neighbors put up a fence, so we didn't have to. I wouldn't have put up a fence anyway. I don't like fences, as they're more divisive than anything. I have no contact with my neighbors, other than the occasional greeting. My neighborhood does have a neighborhood picnic once a year, but still... I miss the way people were when I was growing fences, kids playing together, kids sharing swingsets, neighborhood softball, etc. We lived on an Air Force base in Rantoul, IL and I loved it. Good times. Good times.

mrkmommy said...

I am with Michelle - I would love to have you as a neighbor.

This is the number one reason we will probably never move from our house unless my husband gets transfered. We live in a 1500 sq ft house with 5 (almost 6) people. Our yard is 600 sq ft. BUT we know our neighbors - 8 houses, 9 kids under 10. In the evenings we come outside with lawn chairs and toys and watch the kids run up and down the street. We have Memorial BBQs and Christmas round robins. I couldn't ask for much more in a house (except maybe a little more room for a few more fruit trees).