He's not Boo Radley, but only makes me think of him. During the year we exchange warm hellos in passing but he likes to keep to himself and that's OK with me. Last year when Brooks and I took the boys trick-or-treating, we knocked on his door and waited. He appeared with the traditional bowl of candy but stopped when he saw us and closed the door. A moment later, however, it opened again and he emerged with a clever smile and two large pumpkin-shaped trick-or-treat bags full to the brim with candy bars, suckers, and other such goodies - one for each of my sons. Still smiling, he nodded in response to our delight, and then closed the door again.
This year we were treated to the same kindness.
"You guys can borrow my belt sander if you don't have one."
Brooks and I look at each other wondering how to respond. Usually when you hire someone to do work for you, that's exactly what you think you're doing - "hiring". The carpenter we chose to do the finish work on the basement, however, is standing in front of us telling us that he will loan us his personal equipment free of charge. This so we can finish one of the DIY projects that have become the norm as we attempt to complete a huge undertaking on a modest budget.
He has a wife and kids. He has a mortgage. I'm sure has has a car payment, too.
"Uh, that would be great!" one of us says in a way that probably comes off as something close to awkward but not ungrateful. Do people really do stuff like this? He does. Over the course of the remodel he has stopped in to see how we were surviving even when he was not directly involved. Not only has he freely lent tools but also his experience, advice, and a listening ear to boot. His moral support, easy laugh, and attention to the detail of his craft have pulled us through some tight spots, even (and especially) when he was not on the clock.
Our home away from home is the roomy and well-kept basement apartment of Brooks' aunt and uncle. Our boys have found new and fast friends in their second cousins, crashing summer and holiday parties not intended for their attendance - but who would know the difference? Room is always made for them on the trampoline, air hockey table, inflatable water slide, zip-line, and Cousins Club House. An extra slice of pizza, some ice-cream cones or a big helping to Uncle L's Belgian waffle specialty will periodically find its way into their bellies. Brand new boxes of color pencils from aunt and uncle met them on their first day of school, new tee-shirts just for them came back from a St. George excursion, and a notice arrived in the mail the other day letting them know of a gift subscription to Kids' National Geographic.
Of course these are not the perks given to good customers in order to keep their business. Brooks and I are squatters, first rate! They have not only opened their doors to us but have rolled out the red carpet, too. In fact, not only do they decline rent but once when we wrote out a check to cover our utilities, we found it the next day on the breakfast table with a note that read, "You are our guests."
photo credit to Brooks and his clever phone