Holes in the fence

Rick Ryckeley's picture

If you have a brother, chances are you’ve been in a fight or two during your childhood.

I have three brothers. There were lots of battles while we were growing up at 110 Flamingo Street. Most were outside. A few were in. The ones inside got us into more trouble than the ones outside.

That’s how Twin Brother Mark and me found ourselves on the wrong side of Neighbor Thomas’s new fence. We were caught again running through the house throwing water balloons at each other.

When Dad asked why we’d do such a thing after being told a hundred times not to, my answer was simple, honest, and to the point. Mark smelled. He needed a bath. I thought I’d help him out. Besides if you can’t depend on your twin brother for help, on whom can you?

Dad wasn’t amused. He sent Mark and me outside to weed the garden just as Thomas’s pool party started.

At six feet tall, the wooden fence next to our garden stood as a formidable barrier to the fun that lay beyond. It encircled the only in-ground swimming pool on all of Flamingo Street. Complete with diving board and slide, the pool was the most recent addition to Thomas’s backyard.

He had invited all his friends for the late Saturday afternoon pool party to celebrate it finally being filled. Everyone was there: Big Brother James, Older Brother Richard, and of course, Moon Pie, the raccoon.

For the next hour laughter splashed over the fence. But there was no laughter for Mark or me. We were stuck weeding the garden. As much trouble as we four boys stayed in, you’d think the garden would be weed free, but no. I actually believe Dad planted weeds so we would have something to do.

Soon we became bored and wanted to see the fun next door. Our only view to the other side was through two knot holes in the new fence.

Two knot holes, two brothers – how could we fight over that?

Mark had a clear view of only what he could see through his hole – the pool. Just around the corner, my view was of Moon Pie scrounging in Thomas’s trash cans again – looking for more Moon Pies, his favorite food. If we wanted to see a different view, we had to switch positions.

And that’s how the big outside fight started. I wanted to see the pool and Candi. And I knew Mark really liked Moon Pie.

Unfortunately, Mark was unwilling to change his view.

Although lots of fun, ten minutes of lobbing pine cones over the corner of Thomas’s fence didn’t convince Mark to switch his position. Despite his yelling for me to stop, throwing yellow squash didn’t work either. It was only after the bombardment of rotten tomatoes that he finally left his knot hole and started the fight.

A food fight in a garden is really cool, except when it’s your Dad’s garden. Because of our fighting, Dad threw us out for a month. Not out of the house – just out of the garden. James and Richard had to do all the weeding. At least there was some victory in defeat that day.

Still, I never got to see Candi, and Mark didn’t get to see Moon Pie. In order to see my brother’s view of things, we had to be willing to stop fighting, and that day we never did. Because of our unwillingness to compromise, both of us lost out.

Guess that’s the lesson. You first have to stop fighting in order to see the other person’s view – especially if the other person’s view is different from yours. If you don’t, innocent people could be hurt. Just ask James and Richard.

It’s a lesson we learned growing up at 110 Flamingo Street. Considering what’s going on now with the economy, and with so many people out of work, looks like some of our politicians need to learn that lesson also.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is saferick@bellsouth.net. His books are available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]

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