Sunborrowers and Watering Cans

A good neighbour is a friend, a helper, an ally; but a neighbour can also be a kindly stranger who waters a toddler’s bean plant, just because it’s there.

This is the Excerpt Congratulations to A.M. Matte, whose submission Sunborrowers and Watering Cans was the second place winner of Good News Toronto’s 2012 True Story Contest — a creative non-fiction personal essay about a good neighbour.

My son planted a bean in a cup at daycare last spring and it began to bud. To humour him, I bought a pot and some earth, transferred the puny sprout and set the entire concoction out on the common terrace of our condominium building – where I promptly paid it no heed during one of the driest summers our city has known.

When I returned in early August to retrieve the dusty remains, I was surprised to find a thriving, full green plant with edible beans hanging from it. It put in mind my father’s prolific tomato garden, helped along by his neighbour Colette.

Papa has a well-tended and landscaped garden, in part inspired by that of Versailles. Off to the side is a vegetable patch where lettuce, carrot and tomato plants battle the occasional rabbit and inclement weather for survival.

Papa also has a busy schedule that whisks him away from home on a regular basis – too regular for his garden to thrive. That’s where Colette comes in.

She lives next door to my parents; her deck is bathed in sunshine in early morning and overshadowed by trees by noon. There is a grassy patch of land beyond the deck where there used to be an above-ground pool. Beyond that is a small vegetable garden that enjoys Colette’s attention – the same attention she pays to Papa’s garden during my parents’ frequent trips away from home.

Armed with a watering can, Colette makes her way across her neighbours’ lawn and down a small hill to the vegetable patch. She carefully removes the mesh wire fence, which ineffectively keeps rabbits out, and steps in to water the thirsty plants and their cherry-red fruit. Once that job is done, she fills the watering can with the bite-sized tomatoes, ensuring none goes to waste. There are always more when my parents return, as long as Colette waters them.

Later, Colette drags a lawn chair onto my parents’ property for a well-deserved rest. Papa jokes that it’s only fair: in the afternoon, Colette’s place is in shadow, “so we let her borrow our sun!” A little water for a little sun; it’s a pleasant, reciprocal relationship – one I ponder as I bite into a prickly-fuzzy, sun-warmed green bean.

A good neighbour is a friend, a helper, an ally; but a neighbour can also be a kindly stranger who waters a toddler’s bean plant, just because it’s there.

A.M. Matte

A.M. Matte

First published at the age of 11, A.M. Matte has won the Mathieu da Costa writing competition, a Best of Venue award at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and the O’Neill-Karch playwriting award. Recent publications include Son of Sun in North of Infinity II, and three short stories in the literary magazine Virages.
A.M. Matte

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13 Responses to "Sunborrowers and Watering Cans"

  1. Merle   January 5, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    what an amazing – and amusing – story.
    One never knows where miracles will show their faces.

    Reply
    • A.M. Matte   January 7, 2013 at 8:00 pm

      Very true.
      Another small “miracle”, if you will – that my kid’s bean sprout is still alive and *almost* thriving on our dining room table.
      Hopefully it lasts the winter and spring indoors until it braves the terrace again.

      Reply
  2. janet cohen   January 5, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    What a truly delightful story. It reaffirms the belief that there is indeed goodness in humankind. Thankk-you Arianne.

    Reply
    • A.M. Matte   January 7, 2013 at 8:02 pm

      Merci Janet. It’s so easy to forget to recognize the small things people do for each other. I hope I can somehow track down my neighbour and thank him / her in person one day.

      Reply
  3. sheila baslaw   January 6, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Heartwarming, too often we forget to give a place of honour to the small beautiful actions people do for the good of others, thanks ,Arianne.

    Reply
    • A.M. Matte   January 7, 2013 at 8:06 pm

      Merci Sheila. In the “big, bad” world, it’s important to take the time to say thank you for the small things. It lifts our spirits and inspires us to make another small gesture to create a world that’s a little closer, a little better.

      Reply
  4. Sophie Tolias   January 7, 2013 at 12:16 am

    Congratulations Arianne. Such a heartwarming story. And it’s lovely how these acts of kindness take us from your condominium terrace to your papa’s landscaped garden. Beautiful description.

    Reply
    • A.M. Matte   January 7, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      Much appreciated, Sophie. It’s acts of kindness like these that remind us that nothing we do goes unnoticed. May we therefore thrive to do more good, whether recognized with much fanfare, or whether it simply makes a stranger smile.

      Reply
  5. A.M. Matte   January 10, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Much appreciated, Sophie. It’s acts of kindness like these that remind us that nothing we do goes unnoticed. May we therefore thrive to do more good, whether recognized with much fanfare, or whether it simply makes a stranger smile.

    Reply
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  8. A.M. Matte   April 5, 2013 at 9:34 am

    I tracked down the mysterious bean plant benefactor! A neighbour whose condo overlooks the terrace. I shared the story with him and he was pleased that his seemingly small gesture of kindness was recognized.

    Reply
    • Eva Karpati
      Eva Karpati   April 5, 2013 at 11:43 am

      That is wonderful! It sounds like a another story brewing : ).

      Reply

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