Peg, my neighbor to the east, walks toward me as I prune dead wood from a beauty bush (Linnaea amabilis). Welcoming a rest from the heat, we sit in the shade of the slope where landscapers planted two beauty bushes beside a magnolia tree (Magnolia grandiflora) in summer 2004. My husband and I used a home equity loan to pay for the improvement that also gave us access to our backyard from our kitchen door wall.

“Those blossoms smell wonderful!” Peg says.

“I should’ve planted beauty bushes along our property line instead of those wimpy shrubs,” I reply, and nod to the eyesores.

“Like Tim and I wish we hadn’t planted the maple sapling my dad gave us when we moved in. Now the seeds cover everything! I apologize for the mess on your driveway and lawn.”

I smile, lean to the source of our shade, and say, “That tree’s from maple seeds Mel’s dad gave us in a canning jar. So we’re familiar with pesky helicopters.”

Peg, Tim, and their three little girls moved into their new house the same weekend in February 1989 that my family of three older girls moved into our new house. Dirt and mud surrounded us where cows and sheep once grazed in alfalfa fields. Enough to overwhelm two former suburban mothers.

Thirty-four years later, Peg mows about one and a half acres of lawn with her new z-turn. Like my husband, the non z-turn lawn mower in our household, Peg’s almost deaf. Mel, however, at last submitted to bothersome hearing aids.

As I do when Mel’s unplugged his ears, I speak to Peg with my cheerleader voice. “Your house looks brand new with the dark gray paint and black trim of your new windows.”

“We wanted to brick the house when we built it, yet the builder said we needed an engineered field because the property didn’t perc. So, $15,000 for brick went to the septic field.”

“Well, we also had to come up with $15,000 for an engineered field.” We pause with a suspicious thought blooming between us.

“Makes you wonder if they told us the truth,” I say.

“Yes, it does. But what can we do about it now?”

“Be thankful for the land we have. I’ve been blessed watching your three girls grow up, and now your grandkids. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else on this planet.”

“You’re welcome to come over anytime,” Peg says. “The grandkids are so much fun.”

“I love to listen to them play,” I say.

Dear Reader, Peg stretches her legs, knees scarred from surgical replacements. She talks about growing up in a house her grandfather, an excellent carpenter, built in Detroit. “My family walked to our parish and school. My mother had ten children. She’d say she raised two families.”

We eventually stand and return to our work. I hope somehow, Peg’s dear mother found a few summertime minutes to sit with a neighbor on her lawn. And talk beneath a maple tree.

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