Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, Renee Closson’s chalkboard messages leave many a neighbour to wander just a little more slowly by her house. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Column: Conspicuous chalkboard yields lookie-loos

The prevalence of crime in the region may have some neighbours wondering why exactly vehicles keep slowing down in front of Renee Closson’s home. Are they casing the joint? Scoping out her lawn ornaments to see if any garden gnomes are suitable for the black market? Wait, does she even have lawn ornaments?

Not likely. Odds are, they’re fellow word-nerds and are looking at her chalkboard. That’s why I linger on the sidewalk in front of her house anyway. (And let me tell you, I’m not a huge fan of garden gnomes.)

You see, Closson likes quotations. It’s the reason she set up a chalkboard outside her old front door in 2001 and it’s the reason she brought it with her to her new house when she moved.

“I love quotes and words. I find them among the most inspiring things. They can challenge you or inspire you or make you laugh,” she said. “I was always writing down little quotes and putting them on my fridge and I had the chalkboard and I thought, well I’m going to put quotes on the chalkboard and hang it up outside. It was kind of my way of trying to connect to people even though I wasn’t out there chatting with them myself.”

And, much like the Valley’s flag guy (I wrote about him in the Citizen’s Oct. 13 edition), Closson has come to find her hobby indeed reaches farther then her own front yard.

“I get lots and lots of comments,” Closson noted.

And she also gets completely ignored.

“If I’m working out in the garden I’ll see cars slow down or stop, but mostly they don’t even notice that I’m out there, they’re busy looking at the board,” she said. “It’s funny because I used to have seating out on my porch and I would sit out there and read a book and people would stop and stare but they wouldn’t even notice I was sitting there because they were looking at the chalkboard. That happens time and time again.”

Closson has become accustomed to walkers and drivers alike slowing down to have a quick read, but she really does enjoy the actual feedback, too.

One child was sad to report they’d be graduating from the local school and wouldn’t be able to stop by every morning with their mom anymore.

A mother thanked Closson for giving her and her son a jumping off point for some serious chats.

“They would talk about what the quotes mean,” she said. “I had a quote up there one time about burning your bridges and that’s not a saying children know and she said it was a great conversation about what that means.”

Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes she follows a theme. She’s working on a set of Abraham Lincoln quotes right now.

Her dedication to the chalkboard is something her family has had to come to terms with, even if they do have a little fun at her expense.

“When I’m away I’ll get my daughter to change the quote board and sometimes all she writes is ‘My mom asked me to change the quote on the board’,” she said with a laugh.

“What a curious power words have.”

— Tadeusz Borowski

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