no. 09: On The Fence About Privacy

Even as I sit down to write this, I still have mixed feelings about my topic. My wife and I bought our house just about a year ago. We love our new neighborhood — it’s friendly, clean, and safe — and these days, it’s also changing pretty quickly. Our neighborhood is just one of the many reasons we enjoy living in Wheat Ridge.

Recently, we rebuilt the fence in our back yard. But before I get into that, let me go back about two weeks, during my vacation to San Diego.

My wife and I met my parents in California for a destination vacation. We rented an adorable little house in the heart of Mission Beach, which is a long, narrow stretch of land between the ocean and the bay. They have two boardwalks, plenty of little shops, a slew of restaurants and bars, etc., and tourists…lots of tourists. It makes perfect sense - it’s a beach town, they have more or less perfect weather, and oh right - it was the tail end of Spring Break!

With all that hullabaloo, you might expect to be given the cold shoulder, or at least feel like you’re no one special. But to my surprise, Mission Beach was something entirely different. I didn’t realize it when planning the trip, but every other cross-street between the ocean and the bay is a pedestrian way. Our house had a small front patio that faced the “street” and though it was a tight squeeze to fit all four of us, it was lovely. Just a few feet across the path was the neighbors’ front patio, they were locals. They told about their favorite places, gave various tips and tricks for navigating the beach and boardwalks, and we felt generally welcomed, almost as if we’d bought the place for good. It was refreshing. It’s what you want in your front yard experience.

My neighbors here in Wheat Ridge are wonderful people. An older couple, with a daughter and three grandkids living together, they welcomed us right away when we purchased our home last year. But years ago, the previous owners of my house, and the previous owners of their house were family. The backyards were built to accommodate this — a three-foot picket fence with a gate in between the properties. It didn’t seem like anything we’d really need to update when we purchased the house, but over the course of the year it became clear that something needed to change.

You see, like many in the neighborhood, their house was built in stages. Their driveway runs along that low fence, and their “back patio” actually faces to the side. When they relax on a pleasant summer evening, they get to look directly at me relaxing, on my back patio. It’s awkward sometimes. There are kids and dogs, cars and frogs (so I am speculating on the frogs, but with three pre-pubescent boys living next door, it seems plausible) and generally, a lot of activity. It’s not what you want in your backyard experience.

So I had a few people come over to give me estimates on the cost to raise the fence up to six feet. I had knots in my stomach each time a (local) vendor came to survey the yard and give me a quote. I had knots because I didn’t tell my neighbors what I was up to. I didn’t know how to start that conversation. I didn’t want to explain my need for privacy. I just wanted a fence.

At the airport in San Diego, I was emailing with my preferred vendor and booked the crew to come by the very next day. They had the old fence down, and the new one built in a matter of hours. The change was instant - the dogs stopped barking at every little thing, the voices were softer, the cars were hidden, and ultimately - we both had some privacy. I learned to appreciate the difference between a front patio and a back patio. And I stopped worrying about what my neighbors think…for the most part.

Jeremy's professional niche is at the intersection of arts and technology. He grew up in New England and has lived in the Denver area since 2008. He loves exploring Colorado with his wife and puppy, and can often be found at the local brewery chatting with friends.

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