Tess Sheffield paused from dinner preparation at the kitchen deck and looked at her husband Bert.
“Did you hear that noise, it sounded like a big truck near the entrance to our driveway. Are you expecting any delivery for your workshop?”
Bert grunted as you folded the newspaper and listened carefully. He stretched and arose from the comfortable chair in their family room. It had been a hard week and he was not looking forward to any interruption. Sighing he headed down the corridor to the front door to look. He could hear the distinctive sound of a diesel motor idling as he reached the front door and just as he was about to open the inner door to peep through the screen the bell sounded. Must be something for them he thought, but what?
As the door opened he caught sight of a uniformed man through the still locked screen.
“Can I help you?”
The uniformed man responded with a tired voice.
“We need to move furniture into the empty house next to you and it will take some time. We were wondering if you’d be kind enough to allow us to block your driveway for an hour. Will you be needing to take your car out this evening Sir?”
Bert opened the screen door and looked down the driveway. At the bottom was a big enclosed delivery truck with a sign that identified who the uniformed man was working for. The sign said Ajax Interstate Deliveries.
He turned to the man at the door. “No problem at all, I won’t be needing the car this evening but my son and daughter will be coming back from a school function after a while and you can tell them I’d asked them to park on the street until you finish your work. They can bring their car in later.”
The man signalled acceptance to a woman standing by the truck and she turned to the man beside her motioning to the back of the truck. Then she went to the cab and shut the motor down. The man at the door hastened to join them and Burt watched as they quickly organized the off load. Doors swung open at the back and they tested the elevator at the back a couple of times before jumping in to begin unloading.
Bert became aware someone was looking over his shoulder. It was Tess. He moved to the side to let her join him on the porch and put his arm around her.
“Do you remember when we moved here after getting married Tess? Seems like ancient history specially when I remember the off load was man handled. Now its state of the art with all the gadgets they need to get it done in a hurry. They’ve probably got two more separate loads in that monster and will be on the road to the next destination after this. It’s a hurry up world to earn a living these days. I wonder how their bodies can handle this constant stress?”
Both laughed as they stood watching. While they were looking an RV swung to park in front of their place on the street far enough back to give room for the unloaders.
“How will the kids be able to park there when they come home?” Tess looked at her husband anxiously.
“There’s enough room Tess, I just hope they are polite to those people when they come. Teenagers do get impatient when out of their comfort zone.”
“Yes, I remembered you did just that when you were a teen and we were in High School Bert.” Tess gave a giggle and squeezed his harm affectionately. They’d been sweethearts from High School days and their household still testified to that love.
At precisely that moment the kids arrived and hesitated momentarily before reversing back to park in front of their other neighbour’s street space. Then they paused to talk with the people emerging from the RV.
Bert uncoupled his arm from Tess. “I’d better go down there and make sure our angels are not troubling those people.” He laughed. Tess retreated to the kitchen to finish evening meal preparation. The kids had teen appetites and would be hanging around for the food as soon as they made it up the driveway. She smiled happily at the thought they appreciated her food.
Bert appeared on the scene hoping his son and daughter were welcoming their new neighbours appropriately as he guessed their interest in the delivery truck would indicate it was their personal effects being delivered. To his surprise he found them busily and pleasantly engaged with the three teenagers from the new neighbour family. To his further surprise he noted they were of Middle Eastern appearance. Burt approached warily and held out his hand in welcome. He was wondering if they’d be friendly and fit in with this mainly Caucasian suburb. They had a black family two doors down, and they were ideal neighbours so he hoped this would work out too.
The father introduced his family to Bert in a cultured voice with just a trace of accent. They were from the East Coast and Bashir Khoury had just accepted a professorship with the local university. They’d had to move in a hurry to be there for the new university year and had bought the property next to the Sheffield’s without inspection but on the recommendation of a local professor they knew. They were anxious to see their investment had been a wise one. Bert assured Bashir the house was one of the best in their area and when told the price paid he shook his head in astonishment. It had been a bargain buy. Their old neighbours had needed to sell quickly as they’d been assigned to work for a new start up of a multinational who’d entered into the China market.
Bashir introduced his wife Baraa and their children Amir, Angela and Kaci who were in animated conversation with the Sheffield teens Emma and Lucas. Bert warmed to the new neighbours. He’d something in common with Bashir as he too had taught at the University Engineering Department for a while until he decided to branch out for himself after tinkering in his hobby workshop and coming up with an innovation which he knew would have market potential. On borrowed money he started a company and it rapidly grew to the point he had to list it on the stock exchange and hire management, production and marketing people. While still the major stockholder Bert kept himself occupied in the research wing and let business professionals run the company. It had been a win win situation and a meteoric rise for the family. Bert still did casual teaching for the university when they were temporarily understaffed.
Bert asked to be excused temporarily and headed up the driveway to fill Tess in on her new neighbours and find out if she was free to come welcome them. When he told Tess they were Americans originally from the Middle East she looked alarmed.
“I hope they’re not terrorists she said uncertainly!” Bert laughed but quickly sobered.
“For crying out loud they’re Lebanese Christians Tess! The only difference between them and us is we need to work on getting a California style tan and they have it naturally! Come on, you’ll like them!”
“But what about supper?”
Bert gave his wife a hug and kiss. “Come on Tess!”
Tess dropped what she was doing and followed her husband feeling chastened for her indiscretion. She didn’t know what to say to people who’d come from the other side of the world and felt apprehension as she approached the teenagers who were sitting on the curb chatting while Bashir and Baraa were now excitedly exploring their new home directing the placement of furniture. Bert walked up the new neighbour’s driveway dodging furnishings in transit and at last found an excited Bashir and Baraa who were overjoyed at their new home discovery.
Baraa was quite insightful and immediately recognized Tess’s discomfort. She moved quickly to greet her neighbour and hugged her planting kisses on each cheek in a Middle Eastern greeting. Tess relaxed at this and soon the women were moving rapidly around the house discussing the best place to put things as they came with amazing speed from the mover’s truck.
Then Tess remembered her afternoon preparation for the meal. The children would need to be fed. Would Baraa mind if she fed her children as well as Tess’s teenagers. Baraa didn’t want to put Tess to that trouble but Tess insisted and Baraa beamed at this unexpected kindness.
I’ll make up something for you and Bashir and bring it over so you can supervise and have some nourishment at the same time.
Baraa was bewildered. She’d been warned by members of her community it would be rough finding a friendly reception in this new city away from the melting pot of peoples in East cities where they had their own sub-culture. They’d urged Bashir not to take the appointment, but he was stubborn and didn’t share their feelings.
Tess’s acceptance when she’d made her first attempt at friendship had overturned fear Baraa’s community had put into her. The stress she’d experienced during the move evaporated but now there was this uncertainty over the offer to feed her family. Supposing her children turned their noses up at the food Tess offered to provide them out of the kindness of her heart. Would that spoil this promising start at being good neighbours?
She tried to think of a way to decline gracefully but there seemed to be no way out. Just then the movers asked for directions on where to place furniture coming in and when she’d attended to that Tess had already gone.
The teenagers whooped with joy when Tess invited them to come up to the house and eat. They were so interested in learning about each other’s history they’d not even thought about eating but now their enthusiasm at the thought introduced had them rushing up the hill after Tess. They consumed all the food Tess had prepared and it was obvious they could still eat more so Tess hauled things out of freezer and cupboards until eventually they were full and satisfied. Tess felt happy they’d appreciated her efforts and began preparing food to take over to the Khoury’s and her husband who was enjoying helping new neighbours set up. The teenagers were conscripted to transport the food while Tess had a quick meal and locked up.
Baraa was so delighted when her children spoke enthusiastically about the meal they’d experienced, and she thanked Tess warmly. She was glad she’d not refused the kind offer now. So, when Tess offered to have the children stay over at her place when it was observed they were getting in the way of movers becoming irritated she asked Bashir how she should respond. In their culture it was unacceptable for boys not part of the family to be in such proximity to girls approaching marriageable age, especially in a stranger’s home. Bashir hesitated. Things had started off well with their new neighbours and he didn’t want to spoil that, but his community had the proven ability to learn about everything done. A careless word from any one of his family could create havoc in the transplant community and wreck future marriage proposals. He thought of a possible solution and turned to Bert.
“The movers are almost unloaded but we could use some strong men to get things in place while there’s still light and after they’re gone. Amir will have to help but the girls can overnight with Emma if that’s OK. Tomorrow I’ll have to get power and phones connected so we can finish the rest at our leisure. Would Lucas like to help us, I saw Lucas eyeing off our RV so maybe the boys would like to camp there overnight for the experience? Baraa and I will camp here over night with our camping gear and lights.”
Bert smiled, he immediately understood the predicament as he’d read books about similar cultures and how girls were protected from any hint of scandal. He called his son over.
“Lucas how would you like to help out here until dark with the Khoury’s? Bashir says you can camp out in the RV with Amir if you wish. We’ll park the RV in our yard and run an electric cable, so you have power all night.
“Cool! How can I help?”
Bashir signed the paperwork presented by the movers and began to organize the boys. Bert decided to help too. He could take time off from the company tomorrow.
“Bashir you and Baraa will be our guest over-night and I won’t take no for an answer. That’s what neighbours do for each other in this community.”
Bashir looked at Baraa in surprise at the offer. Hardly what he’d expected with all the negative stories his relatives had fed him as he was considering this new university invitation. He felt uncomfortable but finally managed to express his thanks for the kind offer.
“It will be too much of a burden for you to take us in!” He didn’t know what else to say.
So, most of the furniture was put in place and as light of day faded the RV was moved onto the Sheffield property, electric cable supplied from the garage. Lucas bought his car inside and eagerly occupied the RV with his sleeping bag hastily retrieved from storage. Bashir and Baraa moved gratefully into the spacious guest room luxuriating in a warm shower before heading for their guest bed. Early next morning both Tess and Baraa fed their hungry brood, and then the husbands.
Burt phoned the office to tell them he’d not be there that day and asked they reschedule any appointments he had. He and Bashir then spent the day attending to connection of utilities, an initial check in at the university and lunch at a Lebanese restaurant Bashir had noted as they went from one appointment to another.
Bonding between the families was well on the way.
To be continued.
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