It was one of those twenty-four-hour bugs or food poisoning; I’m not sure which. Between trips to the bathroom, I was in bed with a pounding headache. The doorbell rang. I could not get up. Knocking. I.Could.Not.Get.Up. Doorbell ringing. Head pounding. Knocking.
I pulled myself out of bed. My stomach lurched. My head throbbed. I made my way to the second-story window that overlooks our front porch, opened it, looked down, and saw the top of the head of the little blond-haired, five-year-old boy who lives next door. He looked up and said, very sweetly, that he’d hit his ball over the fence and wanted to get it from our backyard.
“Where’s your mom?” I asked, wondering why he was standing there by himself. He’s so little, and blond. “She’s in the house,” he answered. I told him that I couldn’t get the ball just then because I was sick, but said that he could go get his mom to get his ball for him. I asked him not to go in our backyard by himself because of the pool. I watched as he walked back toward his house, and then I stumbled back to bed.
The next day I found his ball in our pool, fished it out, and tossed it over the fence into his yard.
A couple of days later I was writing at my computer upstairs when the doorbell rang. I looked out of the same second-story window down to the porch, and saw the top of that little blond head. I opened the window, and the boy said, very sweetly, that he’d hit his ball over the fence. “Where’s your mom?” I asked. “She’s in the house,” he answered. I went downstairs, met the boy at the door, walked with him to the backyard, fished his ball out of our pool, handed it to him, and told him that it was okay with me if his mom comes in our yard to get the ball if it happens again.
The next day the little blond boy rang the doorbell to get his ball. And again a day later, he rang the doorbell and asked for his ball. After I retrieved it yet again, I walked him next door and knocked. I waited a few moments and knocked again. When the boy’s mother answered the door, I told her that I’d just fished her son’s ball out of the pool again, and that I was very glad that he asked to go in the yard rather than getting it on his own because of the pool. I told her that anytime the ball goes over the fence she was welcome to go and get it for him.
A couple of mornings later, after getting out of the shower, I was sitting at my computer wrapped only in a towel. The doorbell rang. Hoping it was UPS just dropping a package, I ignored it. I was in the middle of writing. Knocking. Ignoring. Doorbell ringing. I really didn’t want to lose my train of thought. Knocking. And I was wrapped in a towel. Doorbell ringing. Where is that kid’s mother? Knocking.
I realized I had a choice.
I could ignore the predictable annoyance knocking at my door, or be open to the unknown opportunity knocking at my heart.
I went to window, saw the top of that little blond head, told him to wait a minute, went to my closet to throw on a pair of shorts and a shirt, and met him on the front porch. “Where’s your mom?” I asked. “She’s in the house,” he answered. He followed me into the backyard and watched while I fished his ball out of our pool. “Wow!” he said looking around, “I really like your backyard. Do you think my sister and I could come over here for a play date some time?” “I’ll tell you what, how about when the weather is warmer, you and your sister come over and swim with Laura?” “Wow!” he beamed. “We’d really like that!” he said. “So would we,” I told him.
The next day as I was writing at my computer the doorbell rang. I went to the window. “I’m sorry to bother you,” he said sweetly, “my ball is in your pool again.” In the backyard we discovered the ball was smack in the middle, unreachable. “Do you have a ‘skinner’?” he asked helpfully. We keep the skimmer on the other side of the house. I had to go back inside to fetch my shoes, which I did. Using the skimmer, I fished the ball from the middle of the pool, and asked, “I wonder why your ball keeps going over the fence. What do you think?” “I keep hitting it this way with my bat,” he replied. “I wonder what would happen if you batted in the other direction,” I said knowing that he lives on the corner with no yard on the other side of that fence. “Well, it would go out on the sidewalk or in the plants,” he replied. “I guess that would be a lot easier to go get,” he added. “I supposed it would,” I told him, suspecting by this time that he was probably after more than just his ball.
The next day I was on the phone with Tom when the doorbell rang. Tom said, “Keep me on the phone when you answer the door, I want to know if it’s him.” I opened the door. I told Tom, “I’ll call you back.” Tom asked, “Is it the little boy?” “Nope,” I said. “It’s his little sister.”
“Hello, what can I do for you?” I said to the tiny blond-haired girl. “Can you see if you have a plastic tennis ball in your backyard? It’s white,” she asked. “Do you want to come with me to look?” I replied. She followed me into the yard, and there it was, a white whiffle ball floating at the edge of the pool. I fished it out, handed it over, and as I did spotted another little blond head on the other side of the back fence peeking through the spaces between the wood panels. “Sweetheart,” I said to the girl, “did your brother ask you to come over and get his ball?” And then a sweet little voice cheerfully called over the fence, “Yes! It’s my ball! I just didn’t want to bother you again.”
Yesterday I noticed a ball floating at the side of the pool and wondered how long it had been there. We were out of town last week. I hesitated for a moment before tossing it back over the fence. I think my little neighbor would prefer that I wait for him to come over so we can get it together.