In 1972, when my family moved into a house in Plainedge, some minor unpleasantness gradually developed with our next-door neighbors. It wasn’t of the magnitude of the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feud, but was enough to create icy tension that lasted decades.
The trouble was that we wanted our neighbors to trim our side of their thick 6-foot-high hedges, which bordered our properties. The neighbors did so once, but not after that. A few harsh words were exchanged, but mostly we ignored each other.
About 10 years later, the neighbors, Bob and Pat Yurasits, removed the hedges and installed a 4-foot-high chain-link fence. We wanted more privacy, so my husband, Mike, installed a 6-foot-high stockade fence parallel to their fence. Our fence was an eyesore, and it was a poor decision on our part. Years passed. The chill between the two houses remained.
After our children were grown in the early 2000s, and life was less hectic, we began acknowledging each other with waves, nods and hellos. One December, we started exchanging Christmas cards.
Then on Oct. 29, 2012, superstorm Sandy hit Long Island with a vengeance. Trees and wires were down everywhere, and our neighborhood lost electricity for nearly two weeks.
We learned that the Yurasits’ adult son, Louis, who has special needs, uses an electrically adjustable bed. When the power went out, the bed was stuck in the upright position. Without electricity, they could not lower to a flat position to help Louis get out. He had to sleep in a sitting position.
Meanwhile, we were using a gasoline-fueled generator to run our refrigerator, water heater and a few lights. When we heard about Louis’ plight, my husband ran an extension cord from our backyard, over the two fences and through the neighbors’ window. The bed was adjusted and the immediate crisis was averted.
Pat and Bob insisted over our objections on paying us for the gas for the generator. It felt good to help out our neighbors. It was a horrific time, but we all came through it — and we became much closer.
Last Christmas, Pat invited me to her home to see her two full-sized indoor Christmas trees. This year, I look forward to showing her the Christmas village on my mantel. My granddaughters head for Pat’s house first on Halloween (Pat delivers the goods).
There is still a little grumbling in the backyard. Pat tells my husband he is working too hard, and he should take a break.
I regret the years wasted, but somehow what we share now has a deeper significance. The simple acts of talking in the backyard or swapping neighborhood gossip are fun.
Lately, our ugly stockade fence had begun to lean on their shorter fence; we had it torn down. It was our Berlin Wall finally crumbling.
Reader Rose Warren lives in Plainedge.