There was a bit extra to our Christmas this year, and I don't mind sharing it with you. We got acquainted with a neighbor lady. This is unusual. When we liquidated our worldly possessions and became disenfranchised residents of our happy home for antiquarian holdovers, we couldn't circulate too much to meet the natives. I think I've previously indicated sufficiently our conclusion that some havens for old folks are no place to stash old folks. Now, what was I saying?
Oh, yes: We've been here four years and live rather much within our own sequestered group. Our apartment is on the third floor, the one with the sign that indicates the main offices of the Bangor & Aroostook Railroad, serving northern Maine, a pleasantry that amuses people here in southern Maine. We have a clear view through our dirty windows of a parking lot where pranksters steal hubcaps, and beyond the road we can see an attractive bungalow.
I speak feelingly of the windows because I saw an optometrist three times before they told me they wash windows on Tuesday. That was three years ago, and they didn't specify which Tuesday.
The bungalow offers our only spectator activity. We knew nothing about whoever lived there, except that they hung out a line of laundry every morning and possibly took in washings. There was, we could see, a youngster who played on the well-kept lawn.
Last summer, our neighbors erected what I believe is a Walpole fence. It is more ornamental than purposeful, much more than horse-high, and I'm told the thing costs a bundle at the mill, which is located in Detroit, Maine, although the Walpole Woodworkers are based in Walpole, Mass. You might think they'd be based in Walpole, Maine, but they are not. Walpole, Maine, is a location in South Bristol, Lincoln County.
We watched as the fence went up, and then we couldn't see the laundry too well and couldn't see the little girl at all. Something there is that doesn't like a fence, and we went back to watching people steal hubcaps.
I neglected to say in passing that we have a beautiful Colonial church at our Walpole, which is kept in mint condition. It is one of the things to see if you visit our state. In the summer it attracts preachers of note who are willing to swap a few well-chosen pulpit words for a vacation at the seaside.
One summer we heard that the Rev. Willard Heimbeck, a Presbyterian minister in Leavenworth, Kan, would supply at the Walpole Meeting House and we knew the man. Our son accordingly made arrangements to have this friend christen his firstborn, our grandson, in the historic old church. This ceremony came on a beautiful summer day and was so successful that Grandson William has never had to do it again.
So, you see, a Walpole fence means something special in our family.
As Christmas approached this year, the Y2K choral society came to sing calamity and cheer. And we were pleased to see our new fence across the way had a string of holiday lights and a dooryard spruce behind it that was ablaze to the tip in Yuletide splendor. Joy to the world, peace on earth, and come all ye faithful! It was beautiful, and it filled our window and made us glad. "I must tell them," I said, "how much this means to us."
She said, "You don't know who they are!"
I said, "It's Christmas, and that doesn't matter. They're neighbors and deserve to be thanked."
So we inquired, and somebody told us their name was Grant and they lived on White Birch Lane. Fancy living next-door and not knowing that! We found four pages of Grants in the phone book, but none lived on a White Birch Lane. We asked the management of our dreamboat menagerie to make inquiry for us, which is known as whistling up a flue pipe, and were told the name is Grant and they live on White Birch Lane. This proved as erroneous as it was the first time around.
She said, "It's almost Christmas; if you don't find them pretty quick, it'll be too late!"
Then I wrote a note, and by good fortune a man came by to leave a brochure of Christmas bargains at Weeks Jewelry Store. I pointed to our window and asked if he could see the bungalow. He said just barely, and I asked him if he were disposed to do me a favor. He said he'd be delighted. So I gave him the note, and he said he'd give it to the folks in the bungalow.
About a half hour later, my telephone burst with a full-throated paean of praise, and I answered it to say, "I'm not about to pay you one red cent! The kumquats were all squishy, and we threw them out!"
Then a pleasant feminine voice said, "Excuse me; I think I have a wrong number!"
I said, "Not at all. This is the slate quarry; with whom did you wish to speak?"
The lady said who she was.
I said, "Can I interest you in a bushel of vinegar spigots?"
She said she thought not, that she was the Christmas-light lady and she got my note and I had made her so happy. And I said, "Where do you live?" She said she lived on Red Oak Lane, and I said that was close enough.
She said yes, that she was looking up at my window. I expected her to say it was dirty, but she didn't. Then I realized it was Christmas Eve, and things were sparkling with a different brilliance.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society