Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Check's in the Mail

"Hello neighbor, I don't believe we've met," I said to the older woman with the well coifed hair. 
"I know all my neighbors," she said pursing her lips and squinting her eyes.
"My husband and I are new on the block."
"Hmm."
"We live in the fifth house on the right."
"Hmm."
"The house with the palm trees."
"Hmm."
"With the trim--"
"Oh, the one with the garden!"




What busy lives we had that after living in The House for months we were still meeting our neighbors. Margaret told me me she was single, owned a fluffy tan cat named "Satin" and worked in an office where the motto these days was "the check's in the mail". She also lived on the other end of the street away from Mr. Wonderful and I. Which for all intents and purposes meant she could be living in New York, Shanghai or Timbuktu, considering how often I'd seen her. 

But that did not stop me from wanting to meet her. Besides she'd noticed our front garden so I liked her already.

Mr. Wonderful and I had transformed our front yard from a turfed putting green into a butterfly's paradise. We did it for the birds, the bees and because I was sick of spending my weekends mowing the lawn. But Margaret wasn't the only one who'd noticed.

"Your garden is beautiful," Stephen said pruning his fruit trees with shears.
"Look at your pomegranates,"I said stopping to admire the sweet orbs hanging from the tree's branches like Christmas ornaments.
"I'd take your garden over pomegranates any day," he said wacking off a branch with the swing of a samurai warrior.

Since his pomegranates were more edible than my lavender shrubs, I didn't rationally agree with him. But receiving compliments isn't rational. It's irrational, emotional and close to your ego--I mean, "heart". So I accepted his horticultural compliment with both hands and all of my ego. Besides he'd noticed our garden, which made me like him even more. 

Mr. Wonderful and I chose to make our garden a turf-free zone when we did because the city was offering a refund to residents who did the conversion. We followed all the rules, submitted our applications correctly and were approved by the program in Sacramento. But we still hadn't received our refund. I emailed around to follow up about this refund and was told the "check is in the mail", which I believe is what they call the oldest trick in the book.

"Your garden has grown a lot," our 86 year-old neighbor said walking across his barren lawn to our driveway.  
"Thanks, Harold," I said surprised at his compliment. "The plants have doubled in size since we planted them."
"What do you call those?" 
"Lantana," I said. "Do you want some?"
"Nope."
"Do you want to convert your turf to a garden?"
"Nope."
"Do you even like our garden?"
Silence.
"Norma's calling," he said walking toward his house.

Compliments are like refund checks: they don't come easy and you shouldn't go fishing for them. Yep, the check's in the mail.