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  • Writer's pictureBetty Girardeau


I have had a fascination with gates since I was a very small child. When I was growing up there was a large Victorian era home up the street that had an iron fence with a gate at the front of the house. I loved going up there to play, opening the gate and playing in the area between their porch and the fence. Before my great-grandmother moved from Virginia to live with my grandmother in South Carolina, I have a dim memory of visiting her in a house that had a white picket fence with a gate. As a restless young child, I was not interested in sitting quietly while the adults sat and talked and was allowed to go out in the front yard. With that permission I headed straight out to play, specifically to open and close that gate. I am quite sure I could not have been more than four or five at the time, and I don't remember much else about that visit, but I vividly remember the white picket fence and that gate. While gates and their fences are often decorative and beautiful, the true function of them historically has been to be a dividing line between the outside and one's city or home, the gate providing the entrance and exit point through that protective wall. Symbolically the term "gate" has also been used, such as "the Pearly Gates," to describe entrances into a new world. In Robert Frost's poem "Mending Wall," the line "Good fences makes good neighbors," is repeated a couple of times. One of the messages in this poem concerns the making and breaking of boundaries. A gate is a natural opening to such a boundary. Closed, it is a barrier. When it is ajar or wide open, the message is "welcome". If I had a gate at my house, I would like to think that it would always be ajar, if not wide open.

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