Monday, April 19, 2010


Roughlly 5-1/2 years ago, my then smaller family moved from the west suburbs of Des Moines to a small town in NW Iowa. Our house in the suburbs had a large six foot wooden privacy fence in the backyard. We didn't think much of it. Almost every house in the neighborhood had a fence. In fact, shortly after we moved into our house, our neighbor put up a privacy fence. (We tried not to take this personally!)

When we were looking for a house in NW Iowa, I noticed immediately that few houses had fences! I liked that. I could see kids playing in back yards and playing in their neighbor's backyard. Fences keep people out. They keep people from entering your yard. I will agree that fences do serve a purpose. They keep small children from wondering to places they should not go. They keep dogs from running away. They keep potentially harmful strangers from entering your property. They keep nosy neighbors from knowing your every move.

I am certainly not "anti-fence." I am not not going to say I will NEVER have a fence in my backyard. However, I want my home and yard to be a place where people feel they are welcome. I want the neighborhood kids to run through my yard. I want our neighbors to join us when our family is playing a game of football or baseball. I want community.

Having lived in a small town, I learned there were times that people felt that my business was their business. People would notice when a new car was purchased. People would notice that my yard wasn't properly mowed. People would notice when my kids were not behaving at the grocery store or at the park. People would notice the massive swing set in the front yard. People would notice the pregnancy test in my shopping cart. I wanted to put a huge fence around me life and keep people out. I learned that I can not do life this way. As much as it bothered me that it seemed like I was constantly being "watched" it also gave me some comfort. People knew when I was struggling, people knew when I was hurting, and people knew when I needed help. I remember a time I was standing in the Hallmark store (before it burned down) and somebody asked me how I was doing. As much as I wanted to say "Fine, how are you?" I just couldn't. I looked at this woman and began crying. I shared my struggle, right there in the Hallmark store for everybody to see and hear. And in my weak and vulnerable state, this woman listened to me. There was no fence up that day between us.

Two months ago, my now much larger family (let's just say the pregnancy test in the cart a few years ago was positive!) moved back to Des Moines. We live in a new development. Right now we have no neighbors. But, they are coming soon! I am curious how many fences will go up. I am hoping not many.


  1. First of all, I really loved your swing set in your front yard. Still do. That street just doesn't seem the same without it. Secondly, our neighbors here in the OC put up a privacy fence shortly after we moved in. I still feel a little weird about that. I hear what you are saying about the anonymity of a bigger city, but then I think what do I need to be so anonymous about? I guess small town living holds me accountable in some ways. It may not always be the best motive(what will the neighbors think?) but it usually turns out to be a good thing.

  2. The blessings and curses of small town living, I still feel the good outways the bad. It is nice to have people who care, and to know your neighbors, to be able to send your kids to play with them, and to run over to borrow sugar- b/c yes, we actually do that here! :)