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  • "Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold."
    Helen Keller

    It’s an experiment –
    We carted away the falling-down fence surrounding the front of our house, located on the corner of a semi-rural street. Our choices are to replace it, or not. I liked the idea of exposure – being more “friendly” neighbors by not boxing ourselves out of the local environment. Keep the fence down for awhile, see what happens, see how we feel about it. We are day 2 into this experience:

    1.Yesterday I made coffee in my kitchen, fired up my laptop at 6am. Sitting there without a care in the world until - a car outside the window. OMG! I scooted sideways from the window, out of sight, and opened the door to loft so that it can act as a visual shield. “Please buy a blind for that window – today” I begged my husband.

    2. This morning I went out early, in pajamas and flipflops and camera in hand, as I am prone to do on a weekend when the birds become my alarm clock and the flowers are blooming. All was well, I was totally lost in my private paradise, until I turned the corner and froze – cars lined up at the stop sign. Visible. Them to me and me to them. Quickly I turned around and headed back to the private safety of the backyard. “This really isn’t working” I stated resolutely. “We need privacy. I want that fence back up…”

    3. After a long day of doing I got lost outside this evening. Fully clothed this time and in the front yard at around 5pm. The churchbells were ringing in the distance and I was completely oblivious to traffic or the like, planting sweetly scented, tiny pansies in the pots that contain the boxwoods that flank the front door - one of my slightly sappy spring rituals. I was aware of nothing but the cool, dry soil in my fingers and the rain starting to gently fall when suddenly my neighbor appeared. “Hey there. I heard you over here – your trowel hitting the stone - and thought I’d say hello.” I was shocked. He would ordinarily never know I was out there, would never stop by, but because of the missing fence, he could now hear and see me.

    We talked about a lot in 15 minutes or so: their kids away at college, his recent health challenges, his orchids in competition at the Philadelphia Flower Show. As we got to the part about my son starting to look at colleges he said “and how does Mom feel about that?” I immediately veered off into talking about my own mother. “Oh, she’s fine, she’s moving back to Chicago, wants to be near my brother and his kids….” “No” he clarified. “I am asking about you. How do you feel about all of this?”

    For a moment I couldn’t speak, tears were welling up when I did not expect them. It occurred to me in that moment that I don’t think anyone has yet to ask me about this – not my family, husband, friends, no one. I am an oldest child. I am capable. I deal. I soldier on and urge everyone else to do likewise. I wear a smile and an upbeat attitude like a uniform.

    When I told my husband about this he said answered quickly “well it’s part of life, isn’t it? Letting your kids go….” I answered “yes, but that’s not the point. No one has asked ME how I feel about all this change. Not even you. No one. Until Andy, today.”

    We are not only looking at colleges for our eldest son but also preparing to move out this house, our beloved sanctuary for the last decade. It is too large, too old, too much work. It is the sensible thing to do but that in no way makes it easy.

    Silence, the silence of admonishment, ensued. My husband is a youngest child so to him, everything feels like a smack-down, as if I am correcting or berating him. It’s OK. We are all going to have to re-learn our roles and ideas about taking care of one another, drill down to deeper issues around fear, change and exposure, soon.

    I am still undecided about the fence, but the pansies look perky and perfect in the pots. Exactly as is expected.
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