Arriving right on time, Oscar pulled up to the driveway Saturday morning, unloaded his equipment and began the great yard cleanup project. Armed with only one assistant that spoke no English, a leaf blower, chainsaw and some rakes, he skillfully and methodically cut, trimmed, chopped and cleaned the overgrown mess that cluttered our entire property. Deemed necessary by our real estate agent, we finally began the first step towards the move to Malaysia and mimicked the other residents of our middle class neighborhood . Giving in to suburban yard sprawl, we shirked our responsibilities as we learned them growing up and paid someone else to do it.
Recalling my recent post with the “before ” pictures, , the “after” pictures speak almost as powerfully as a small town devastated by a tornado. Uncovering spots of the property long covered and overgrown, the back yard looked like one of those post-apocalyptic movie sets where the humans are gone and the plants and animals took over. Destroying hundreds of precious hidden items, countless nuts and other wintertime storage goodies were swept away, leaving who knows how many squirrels heading for the small animal soup kitchen. Uncovering the entire quarter acre of property as the day went by, we watched in awe as four years of garden neglect went up in leaf blowing smoke.
Surveying the fruits of gardening labor, Diane and I patiently waited, attending to other important matters like gathering fifteen years worth of credit card receipts that need to be shredded. (I’m not sure about Malaysia, but I’ve heard Thailand holds the world’s record for reported episodes of identity theft and other white-collar crime so I’ll take no chances.) Out of nowhere a strange sight came into view. Holy shit, we have a bench in the back yard? Who knew?
Discovering stuff you own but never knew about lost its appeal rather quickly as we noticed the bench looked like it belonged in that aforementioned apocalyptic set. Broken, worn and unable to support the weight of a child, we realized it was just another blemish that needed to be trashed, sold or masked. Adding it to the “what do we do about this” list, we walked outside and looked at the front while munching on ham and cheese on rye (Did I mention I’m a Jew that loves pork products? Too bad we’ve chosen a country where half the population follows their religion thus denying me much of the bacon I love).
Impressed at first, we realized that everything formerly known as a messy plant now became a space where flowers need to be planted. Mentally calculating how much that might cost, we moved on and looked at the what used to be the ivy infested side of the house. Owning a corner lot means extra attention to detail designed to be aesthetically pleasing to soccer moms walking their kids to the elementary school. Before the cleanup the ivy looked almost quaint, similar to a New England style cottage. Now it looks like a destroyed section of stucco in need of a paint job. Kaching !! More cash wasted.
Reminded why everyone in Northern California never retires because they spend thousands of dollars paying unskilled laborers to clean what we never did, I understood the purpose behind the world’s most annoying sound that all house husbands hear seven days a week. (It’s not the sound from Dumb and Dumber, it’s a leaf blower, three immigrant guys speaking another language and lawn mowers). Daylight began to fade as Oscar finished up. Needing another full day to complete the job, he said goodbye and we headed to the back yard once again, curious to know how much gutting he accomplished on the trellis. The before and after pictures are truly astounding:
Satisfied that Oscar earned his money, we couldn’t believe how much better the property looked. Encouraged by the results, we took out the checkbook, forked over $1,050.00 and went back to the trusty app to sell your crap to see what garbage was still available to be sold. Earning about $900 so far, we pondered how to get rid of the big items without hiring strong movers. Although I’m more fit than ever before, I’m no superman and maneuvering the computer desk through the door without scratching the walls takes talent that home-bound unemployed bloggers don’t normally have.
Thinking all was well, the worst part of the project hit us hard. Relaxing in the living room watching Sunday Night football, we heard the unmistakable little tweet of the cute and chubby birds that lived in the mess formerly known as the rose-bush above the trellis. Chirping a cute little “Tootsie” sound, we’ve seen the monogamous birds enjoying the security and serenity of their little piece of land. Sounding almost like a cry for help, we walked over the screen door and saw the saddest thing we’ve ever seen while living here.
Looking just like a homeowner returning to the smoldering ashes of a former home destroyed by a wildfire, the little bird and his mate hopped all over with a sad pathetic whine. Obviously confused, disoriented and saddened, they walked all over the area gazing at what used to be their home. Saddened, we felt like bird murderers and realized why the mice love the wisteria bush outside the house so much. How would you feel if you came home one day and the place you call home was savagely ripped apart? Feeling like evil land developers, we vowed to commit some time to volunteer work with birds soon after arriving in Malaysia. Having visited the Galapagos Islands we know nature is very resilient and we’re confident the family will reestablish itself elsewhere.
Understanding that sometimes humans encroach on wildlife in unintended ways, we realized birds are resourceful and of course can fly away and go somewhere else. Hoping they find another set of homeowners too cheap to pay for gardening services because they’d rather save their money to retire early overseas, we closed the screen door and repented our sins hoping the birds would forgive us. Who knew selling your house involved such mental anguish?
If you love birds like we do, please comment and reassure us they will be fine.