Connor and Helen often play at the neighbor’s house – after all, it has a great swingset, cherry tomato plants that they’re allowed to pluck from freely, a hose that Helen uses to wash those tomatoes she plucks, and a tree house.
During the open house for our home—as we were deciding whether to purchase it or not— Connor ran over to the neighbor’s house, and promptly climbed up the ladder into the tree house. And then he asked if we could buy their house instead of the one we were looking at. We knew right away that the folks next door would be great neighbors because the mom came out to tell us how great the neighborhood was, and as I apologized for my then three-year-old’s trespassing, she said in her fabulous Wisconsin accident “Oh, no problem at all—he can come over anytime! I have three boys myself. Looking at houses must be awfully boring for him.” We chatted a bit more, and Ed and I went home and decided to buy the house.
When we moved in, our neighbor reiterated that the kids were welcome anytime, and I had to tell her “I’m from Kansas. When someone says we can come over, I take them at their word. If you’re just being polite, feel free to say that you’d prefer we knock on your door, or set any other rules. It would be completely fine with me.” But instead, she assured me that she was Midwestern too, and it really was no problem. Naturally, we extended backyard privileges to her boys as well. The boys love playing with Connor’s toys and on the basketball court in our backyard—and if we ever get the ground to harden up enough that the sand truck can dump its 3.5 tons of sand in our sandbox—I’m sure they’ll enjoy the sandbox as well.
And so it is that the five children run pretty freely between the two yards, and occasionally we knock on their door to make sure Helen is inside their house when we can’t find her outside, and we holler out our door when we see our neighbors looking around for there motley three when they’re playing inside our house. Connor seems to be the only one to remember to always tell me if he’s planning to go inside their house, and he rats out Helen fairly reliably as well.
A little over a week ago, I got home with the kids from the nature center and they wanted to run into the neighbor’s yard. I told them I’d be inside putting dinner together. Ed arrived a few minutes later, and the last I’d seen of Helen, her feet were planted firmly on the ground as she stared up the pretty big ladder leading to the tree house. I figured she was ready to go for it. By the time Ed got home, we looked out to see this:
See that little pink shirt and red pants? Helen is about two steps from the very top. I don’t know if Connor had to help her get inside, but by the time Ed got out there with the camera, Helen was triumphantly inside the tree house with Connor, having a grand time.