In suburbia, we are insistent on building a front yard, side yard, and backyard fence to divide our 30 ft line in the sand.
A line of 6-8 ft high wood paneling divides what we own versus our neighbors. Sometimes we peer over the fence to say hi, more often than not we’re content to have our own version of the Berlin Wall to separate us from everyone else and create a personal oasis.
Last weekend, my backyard neighbor and I tore a hole in our backyard Berlin Wall.
Since they moved in last summer, we have talked about having an easier way to get the kids back and forth. Our oldest sons go to school together and often yell at each other over and through the fence. In the winter, we set up a ladder on either side so we could climb over for family dinner dates, saving each other the long three block walk up, down, and over to get to each other’s house.
So, now, there is a hole. We ripped out two of the fence panels, bent another, and created a convenient path for the boys to go and play with each other. The idea was to have backyard free time together. Soccer in their larger yard, water squirting fun in ours, but something entirely different happened.
The moment the hole appeared, my son went to their house and let himself in. Their son came to our house, and let himself in. Then our youngest son followed, and soon the boys had entirely switched homes.
The grass is greener, it would appear.
Their son played with Transformers and read books in our living room, our boys scrambled up their stairs to play with a new set of toys. I wandered over with a bottle of wine after the ‘trade’, and asked what kind of ground rules we would have to apply to this new border crossing freedom the boys experienced.
We agreed common sense would rule the day. There is an open door policy, but if the answer comes back as “No,” then there are no tears to be shed, simply walk back to your own home and respect the different sets of parents. Done.
In an era where we all drive our cars from garages in the suburbs to underground parking garages in high rises downtown for our commute, isn’t it nice that one of the small barriers between neighbors has been torn down?