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a while back i wrote of gardener bob. since i last spoke of him the hedges rimming his lawn have grown so tall it's hard to see him when he's lost in his ballet, methodically turning his soil and tending his plants. and his shrubs aren't the only thing that have been growing, he himself has become more irascible, so much so that i decided to stop feigning our neighborly dance given his ongoing lack of response. not only had i stopped waving his way when we were both out, i even told my kids to, essentially, act like he wasn't there (given how snarly he'd be when they would do something as common as wish him good day).

then marty and i called on his neighbors, wally and mary. i use the term "called on" because that, i believe, is what occurred. the event took place on a saturday morning (which i think holds to proper form). the event took place because of a kitchen, a kitchen marty had seen some ten months earlier. i forget why she had cause to be in their house but she was and minutes after arriving home she casually told me i should ask to see their kitchen because she, marty, knew i would be smitten with it. so it was this near-year-old conversation that caused us to interrupt our quiet morning on the porch to go and call on our neighbors after i spotted wally in his back yard, the yard just past gardener bobs.

wally and mary have lived in this spot since 1957. this means they've known gardener bob since he was a pup. when we arrived wally was in the front changing out the glass for screens in their main door. i wondered how many of his near-sixty springtimes in the house wally attended to this chore. when we apologized for the interruption he welcomed it saying he'd been putting this off for weeks and was only doing it now because he ran out of excuses. i guessed that meant he'd probably been doing it for a majority of those years. when i asked about seeing the kitchen, he said "of course, of course", and opened the door wide waving us in. mary, his wife, rounded the corner and the four of us stood in the foyer, sharing in a moment none of us foresaw ten minutes earlier. their mature grace quickly put down any awkwardness that existed and they warmly invited us into their kitchen. they expressed surprise anyone would find their itty, bitty kitchen anything but small and dated, let alone visit-worthy. i fawned over the cozy layout and smart design choices they found, sometimes completely accidentally over the decades. after hearing the basics of how it came to be, the conversation talked less about planning and more about stories the space played part in (like the year the oven was too small to cook a sizable bird obtained for a extra large group of guests). in time we found ourselves lounging in the living room talking of hobbies and travels and parenting and community. realizing we were coming up on two hours i placed my hand on marty's thigh and announced that we should act like we have children and get back to them (saturday computer being the only thing allowing such a parental boondoggle—as surely the kids would not have even noticed our absence from the porch).

as we were parting the topic of our shared neighbor, gardener bob, arose. i had seen them talk with bob regularly and complimented them on this ability, adding i had abandoned the hope of ever having a relationship with the man. mary in a wonderfully maternal tone said, "oh. you shouldn't give up on bob. it just takes a bit for him to warm to you." i came close to confessing if twelve years of un-returned waves didn't produce enough warmth for a single how-do, i fear i lacked the required charisma and patience. but, as is often the case when smart counsel is provided, mary's words found purchase in my mind and just before the door swung closed on bob forever, her sentiment caused me to leave it slightly ajar, for a bit longer at least.

a week ago bella were making our morning stroll to the bus stop. across the street the scrape of a rake on cement caught my attention. looking over i saw bob running a few straggler leaves from his otherwise pristine grass. he stayed hunched over the rake focused on his slippery targets. as i continued to watch he turned to walk up his drive. before turning away he held my attention by making three pronounced steps, more like the stomps of an ogre really, up his drive. my attention sharpened trying to make sense of this unusual gait. he then straightened, turned fast to stare directly at me, smiled big and waved his hand in an exaggerated manner as a dancer exiting a stage might fan a top-hat to the crowd. after a pause on both our parts, he turned and continued walking into the house normally. i smiled as i kept walking after bella. mary's words played through my head, "you shouldn't give up on bob." it appears twelve and half years might be the magic mark.

note, the guy in the chair in the above photo is the scarecrow referenced in the original bob story.




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