What the Neighbors Taught Me

The neighbors across the way are flying South, and so, selling their home and purging all the things that might weigh down their flight. One such thing is a precious grandfather clock. It was made, my neighbor said, by an Amish friend who owned a business many years ago. He has passed now, and his son is aging, but this clock is bright very new looking still. It's face holds the sun, for the day, and the moon, for the night. They bequeathed the clock to my parents, with instructions to pass it on to us one day, because my son fell in love with it when he saw it.


It's been quiet for over twenty years. It takes a specialty clock worker to come and align it right, make sure the weights fall correctly, before it will tick the time away. (My mom, ever faithful to these kinds of things, has already scheduled for someone to come out and look at it.) And, once a day, the owner must dawn the delicate pair of white gloves stowed in the body of the clock and gently pull on the weights, so that the time will remain pure.


It is interesting to think all that a person might amass in twenty years. Twenty being relatively short, when talking about a life, but in particular twenty, since that is how long these dear neighbors have lived across from my childhood home. I didn't know they had a treasured clock these twenty years. But all of us on the block knew that Clarence would get the tractor going after the first snow and plow everyone's drive. And that he would do this after every snow, so that no one ever worried about being late for work or stuck inside. He just did it. I knew, having watched their cat a time or two, that they doted on a little grey boy, whose name I have forgotten. Sweetest thing. Lost, after some years, like my own cat, when the coyotes got brave and started bravado-ing through the streets. They are the sweet neighbors. The raised on the farm neighbors. The ones that many in the neighborhood will miss, even if they didn't know them at all.


How does one gain such a reputation in twenty years? How does one gain it in more years or in less? I guess the same as anything else. One thing, one day at a time. And then you've got more than a Florida condo can hold, and you've got friends and acquaintances stalling your leave with visits, hailing beloved memories and harking you well - all these things fit for better homes than we'll ever see here.

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