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Over the Fence


My mom talked to our neighbour over the fence. Our kitchen window backed onto their small yard. It was usually early evening, when the last meal of the day was being prepared. Val, our neighbour would be taking clothes off the line, and they’d chatter nonchalantly. They’d been neighbours for over 20 years by then, so Val knew to ask my mom about horse racing and my mother would gladly chatter about her wins or losses. Mom would ask Val about the beach house they were building, which Val and family eventually moved to years later. They’d talk about their kids, while clothes were folded or potato was mashed. As the sun began to set, both women might end the conversation with, “I’ll see you tomorrow Edna” and my mother would reply, “God willing.” They lived very different lives, different religions, family sizes and spouses, but that fence was their exclusive domain and at times, a comforting one for both of them. When I found my grandmother, who lived with us, dead one morning as I took her a cup of tea, I remember closing the door and in shock, went to my sister, knowing my own mother was unaware of this tragic event. It was Val we called to comfort our grieving mom. We were packed off to school while priests and funeral homes were contacted. For many, today’s neighbour is a screen with multiple fences with a myriad of possibilities. And while those opportunities can be endless, the lack of control of this type of communication has its drawbacks. I’m reminded of the recent fires and the use of social media to communicate to people across RMs. With many not knowing where to access a central point for emergency communication, people reach out over the fence due to fear and confusion. Others believe hearsay on social media sites. Emergency notification sites are a constructive, positive avenue if utilized appropriately.

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