writing

Watch thy neighbor… and guard those tomatoes

I used to read Gene Weingarten’s columns and live chats for the Washington Post devotedly. But as most of my reading became related to work, especially during the day, I let Weingarten’s work fall off my radar during the past 10-12 years.

His column on Thursday (Sept. 17) was a jolting, yet delightful reminder that I need to make Weingarten part of my regular reading diet again. He’s a wonderful storyteller with a fantastic sense of humor and a strong sense of what will resonate with readers.

Weingarten’s account of a recent experience with a neighbor grieving the loss of his mother who either took advantage of or misunderstood the boundaries of kindness feels like a story entirely suited to our lives during the pandemic.

“My name is Seth,” he said. “I’m a neighbor, and I see you walking your big brown dog, and sometimes a cat is with you.” All true. He had established his bona fides. “My mother just died, and she loved cooking green tomatoes.” He nodded toward my small tomato garden. “Could I take a tomato, in her honor?”

It also has one hell of an ending.

Many of us have gotten to know neighbors that we were previously too busy to take an interest in or talk to. Unfortunately, some of those conversations come with the realization that we were better off as strangers.

And it’s also apparent that the changes in our daily lives — being sheltered at home, maybe with loved ones we weren’t living with regularly — is too much for some to handle. Weingarten’s story was a powerful reminder of that.

I’ll get back to reading Gene regularly, for necessary peace of mind and the appreciation of craft.

[Washington Post]

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