Stone by stone, they taught the meaning of friendship

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 4, 2007

“You sure have some pretty dedicated friends,” Michael, our back-alley neighbour, said to me the other day. Just how dedicated? Let me tell you about the surprise some of our friends prepared for us last week while we were out of town.

My wife, Mary Anna, and I had been on an eight-day holiday trip to British Columbia. When we returned home on June 29, our 44th anniversary, we were left speechless by what we encountered.

We pulled up in front of our house mid-afternoon and immediately noticed someone had made serious improvements to our front-lawn flowerbeds while we were away. We had our suspicions, but could never have guessed what else we were about to see.

Between our front doors I found a nicely-prepared letter-size photo binder bearing the title, The Backyard Caper. I held it unopened in my hand as Mary Anna entered and made her way up the few steps into the kitchen.

I was just turning to the first page of the binder when she glanced out the kitchen window and squealed with delight, “Warren, look in the backyard!”

The cast of “The Backyard Caper” surprised columnist Warren Harbeck and his wife Mary Anna with backyard remake, seen here at night. Photo by Fred Monk

Mary Anna’s backyard flower garden had been transformed. Yes, the brilliant-white daisies, purple irises and budding red roses were all there toward the back of the yard where she had been planting them over the past few years. But the foreground setting was different.

Below the kitchen window, a large, new sun umbrella emerged from the centre of our once-weathered picnic table, now freshly stained in redwood and resting on a new, wide, perfectly-laid paving block patio. From the patio, a classy new paving block pathway led at a 45-degree angle to the arbour at the entrance to the flower garden. Along the pathway were five new, large flower pots with assorted colourful blossoms. And along the edge of the rose garden and into the heart of the garden crouched eight new solar-charged night lights, together with a new solar-power-illuminated turtle.

Our “treasured” collection of weeds was all gone, and the walkway along the side of the house and the parking pad at the back had been cleaned up, levelled and gravelled.

What was going on?

Then I saw the words on the first page of the binder in my hands: “A Story of Friendship.”

Mary Anna and I turned the pages and encountered photo after photo of love in action. “The Cast” consisted of “Diggin’ Debbie” Vandelaar, planting red geraniums in the new planters; “Klippin’ Kate” Millar, pulling up weeds; “Todd the Brick Guy” Simmer and his crew from Big Sky Landscaping, laying paving blocks; and “Friar Freddie” Monk, shovelling and staining as part of this amazing endeavour.

The photo essay concluded with a poem:

We hope you approve
Of the work we have done,
We had a great time!
It really was fun!
We think it looks great.
It really has class!
Now open the wine,
And pour us a glass!

“Friar Freddie,” the instigator and documenter of this caper, is none other than my photography companion Fred Monk, pastor of Cochrane’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church. He’d been planning for a whole year to pull this one off.

As Mary Anna said to them, “You’ve taught us things about friendship we never knew before.”

(For other friendship capers by the Katie-Debbie-Freddie trio see my columns of March 9, 2005 and June 29, 2005.)

© 2007 Warren Harbeck

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