Andy Young

I’ve long believed keeping company with positive, high-energy people is the best way to live life to its fullest, which is why I try to surround myself with friendly, proactively gracious types. But on the theory it never hurts having another cheerful, kind individual around, I am always delighted when another upbeat person enters my immediate orbit. And with the right attitude these sorts of opportunities, though utterly random, occur more frequently than one might suspect .

Last Saturday was rainy, raw, and dreary, but despite those conditions the Little League Baseball season opener I had committed to umpire started right on time, at noon. I was shivering, soaked to the skin, and devoid of all feeling in any of my fingers when the game was mercifully called after two sloppy, miserable innings. But every rain cloud has a silver lining; I went home, changed into dry clothing, and found myself with an unanticipated block of leisure time on my hands. But before I could figure out how to use it, the phone rang. My daughter, who had spent the previous evening at a birthday party/sleepover with three of her friends, needed to be picked up. The family hosting the event lived in another town, and I had never been to their house. But after getting directions I headed on over.

When I arrived, I got out of my car I was greeted by a large black Labrador Retriever, but after the required barking and a few perfunctory sniffs he led me to the front door. I knocked, and a few seconds later was greeted by a woman I correctly assumed was the birthday girl’s mom. Smiling, though clearly in the midst of making lunch for the four female teenagers at the kitchen counter, she said, “I’ll be right with you.” Quickly taking something off the stove, she said, “Follow me,” as she headed into a small mud room off the kitchen. There she put on a pair of boots and bade me to follow her out through a side door.

Once we got outside she began leading me on an impromptu tour of her family’s impressive homestead. She showed me where their strawberries come up every year; last summer the modest-looking little plants yielded two separate crops of small but exceptionally sweet berries. Then she pointed out some scraggly-looking blueberry bushes, ruefully admitting they weren’t yet yielding much fruit. She showed me the swimming pool they had added a couple of years previously, and the sauna her husband had built. There was a scruffy-looking, weedy area further out in the back yard, which, she confided, really needed clearing out. She critiqued their sizable lawn, much of which was under water that day, and then showed me a few more bits of landscaping she and her family had done. It was all very impressive, and I found myself charmed not only by the house and its physical surroundings, but the over-the-top courtesy and generosity of spirit I was getting from a fellow parent who ten minutes earlier hadn’t known of my existence.

After walking nearly all the way around the yard we approached the front door. I was preparing to tell her how much I had enjoyed her hospitality, specifically my impromptu stroll around the grounds, when a small white van with a green logo on the side turned into the driveway. Looking puzzled, my hostess murmured, “I wonder who that is?”

I assumed it was just the parent of another one of the girls, but a second glance made me reconsider, as the man getting out of the truck looked a lot closer to my daughter’s age than he did to mine. My hostess’s uncertainty seemed to elicit some confusion from the truck’s operator. She looked at me, then at him. Not wanting to be the cause of any awkward post-sleepover driveway congestion, I volunteered that I should probably get my daughter and depart. That’s when the woman who had given me the marvelous tour of her yard said, “You’re not the landscaper?”

Nope. The man in the truck was. I just happened to show up at the precise moment he was due at their home to give an estimate for some yardwork that needed doing. We all had a good laugh over the case of mistaken identity; she couldn’t wait to tell her husband.

In the car on the way home my daughter remarked, “Daddy, you do sort of look like a landscaper.”

Some people might not know how to interpret that comment, but I took it exactly the way it was intended: as a sincere compliment to landscapers in general and me in particular!

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