When I was a kid, fences always seemed to be a problem.
The Stitsinger’s had a lovely white fence in their front yard with a top just about as wide as a balance beam. (Not that I would have known what a balance beam was back when I was a little kid.) I don’t remember how I ever got up there, because it was taller than I was; I suspect somebody gave me a boost. What I do remember is thinking I could walk along the top of that fence like a cat. Well, I was no cat. It was my collar bone that I broke. Then I had to walk around all wrapped up with padding around my shoulders, looking like a linebacker. Yeah, a very small linebacker, but still…
Hawkeye’s backyard butted up against ours. She hated kids coming into her yard so much that she had a very tall chain link fence installed around the perimeter to keep us out. It was upside down with the pointy part that’s usually near the ground on top. We called her Hawkeye because all she ever did was stand at her window and watch what we were doing. When we played baseball she waited for one or our balls to go over the fence into her yard. And if one of us dared to climb the fence to retrieve it, she would call the police. I know this because my brother did it once. I thought he was the bravest person in the world. Even if I had been big enough to climb that fence, I would have been too terrified to try. When I threw a ball and it ended up in her yard, I just kissed it good-bye.
There was a monkey living down the street from me. His name was Cocoa. He wore a little collar that was attached to a chain which was looped around the trunk of a tree. I used to stand behind the fence that encircled his yard and watch his antics for hours. As time passed and I got to know him better, it felt like we had become dear friends and the fence that separated us seemed completely unnecessary. He was so sweet and his eyes were so kind. So, one day I decided it was time to take our relationship to the next level and I climbed over the fence with a banana in my hand. I spoke in a gentle voice as I inched my way toward him. He watched me intently. Then, when I was within his reach, I held out the banana. Cocoa snatched it from hand. This was just as I had imagined it. Cocoa and I were going to become famous friends. But before I got too far into my dream for our future together, he let out a high pitched scream that sounded just the way Cheetah did when she got all excited in the Tarzan movies. And then Cocoa-zilla bit me in the arm!
Sometimes it seems that fences are constructed to keep us away from what would surely bring us happiness. It might feel like a good sturdy fence only serves to separate us from our heart’s desire and rob us of our freedom. But then there are the times when fences protect us.
Part of becoming a grown up is learning to be a respecter of fences.