The Exchange Bucket

Years ago I sent out the following in an email to family. Now I think I might take this little story and turn it into a larger one. Either way, I wanted to share it with you today:

I finally have a neighbor I like that likes me, or at least pretends to. We see each other in random passing’s, usually on our way out of or into our houses. Sometimes we are rushed and can only manage a quick wave or smile and a ‘Hi!’…but I really like the days we seem to catch each other at good times and can chat for a few minutes about our kids (they have two young boys) or our yards (theirs looks much nicer than ours!) or our below par sewer systems and drainage ways. The normal friendly neighbor stuff.
This season, however, the fruit trees in both of our yards have been very generous and my neighbor mentioned with a sly smile on her face one day that she was jealous of our massively producing fig tree. I asked if she liked figs and she said she loved them. The next day I left a bowl of figs on her front porch. A few days passed and we caught each other in the back and spoke over our adjoining fence, careful not to lean too hard on the vertical planks since they appear to be standing by sheer luck alone. It’s painted brown from our side and it was my first time looking over the fence enough to see they have painted it white on their side. It’s amazing what a bit of paint will do to a few withered and worn pieces of wood. 🙂 We talked about the fruit trees: our lemons, limes, tangerines, oranges and figs…and their vegetable garden. We left the fence that day all smiles, as our kids struggled to see over the top of the fence, speaking to each other thru yells and giggles.
Not long after, I spotted one of my daughters play buckets – a medium-size, bright red plastic thing with JELLO splayed across the side in white print. I have no clue where the bucket came from but knew looking at it, it would be perfect to hold a couple handful of figs. I took it inside and wiped it clean, then filled it to the top with figs and hung it over the fence in the backyard. My hope was that our neighbors would find the bucket before the birds did. I didn’t see them take it down but the next morning it wasn’t there. When I crept outside to peek over the fence to make sure it had not fallen – there was no sign of figs or the bucket on the ground. Two days later, the bucket was hung on our side of the fence, full of tomatoes and squash, fresh from the neighbor’s garden.
Things went on like this for a few weeks, a bucket of figs here, and some tomatoes or squash there. It was exciting to peek outside and see the red bucket hanging on the fence for us. And the days when I didn’t see it, made me a bit sad. But you can’t force fruit and veggies to ripen. At first my 5-year-old thought I was a little strange, filling one of her play buckets with figs or lemons and leaving it on the fence for the neighbors but soon she learned it was our way of sharing with each other, and what better thing is there to share than food?
I haven’t seen our exchange bucket in a while. Maybe it has ended up in the boys’ toy sandbox next door. I like to think the neighbors are holding onto it until they have something yummy to fill it with. Hopefully by that time I will have ripe lemons and more figs to pass on. But till then, I will wait, and keep an eye on the fence, looking for that silly red bucket with food picked fresh by a kind neighbor who enjoys giving as much as receiving and filling up our exchange bucket as much as I do. 🙂

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