My son was in a mentoring
program a few years ago, and during the safety orientation, the questions
strayed from what I expected. “When you walk home, do you pass any friends’
houses?” the social worker asked. “Do you know any stores near your house?” It
took a moment for my light to go on: they’re asking about a safe community, in
that old-fashioned way that means neighbourhood.
My son was able to rattle off many places we frequent, and the social worker was able to tick off her boxes. But it got me thinking about what it means to grow up in a neighbourhood...
On a Friday night a few years ago, my husband and I stopped in at Friendly Meats, our local butcher, for a dinner purchase. It’s a family-owned business where two brothers provide welcoming, affordable service to a huge range of customers. We debated different cuts and sizes, finally agreeing. I leaned towards Nicole, waiting patiently by the scales, and said we needed this particular steak for dinner. “Tonight? No you don’t!” she barked authoritatively. “You’re going to your brother’s for dinner. He just bought ribs, and your parents are coming too.” My husband looked sheepish: “That’s right, I forgot, they phoned…”
I was happy to feel like my family was expansive enough to include the folks in my neighbourhood. A few weeks later I had the same feeling when I went into Como Market, a few doors down from Friendly Meats. Louis owns and runs this old-fashioned grocery store, along with his wife and brother. That day I came in, we chatted at the cash a little, about my son, the weather, the usual. And then he asked me if my brother had enjoyed his trip to New York City. I stared for a moment. Then I was forced to admit that in fact, I hadn’t even known my brother had been to New York City.
For a kid, having blurred lines between neighbours, friends and family can be natural, and reassuring. I remember Cobb’s Grocery Store in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, where the clerk made a fuss when I grew into a size 6X. And I remember going with my mother at Christmas to bring a tray of homemade cookies to Frank’s Grocery in Calgary, and the European Delicatessen. Those places were safe, and reassuring, and repetitive. I’m so lucky my son is growing up surrounded by Louis, Nicole, Jimmy, Eddie...
I got news this week that Louis has sold Como Market after 43 years. The worn linoleum around the cash register and the hand-labelled boxes will be replaced. I doubt they’ll have the open piles of salt cod any more. It’s already looking tidier down the aisles, and the silver polish is no longer next to the hot sauce. Of course I’m glad Louis will have some time to relax in his retirement. But I will miss the reliable chaos that settled my heart every time I walked in.
by Wayne Chan | May 3rd 11:55 am
My daily commute is like a small gear of mechanical time, of epicycles upon epicycles, where days turn to months and to years, and the seasons cycle through. The rhythms of time are constant, but the changes they bring are not.
by george ilsley | May 3rd 1:44 pm
The neighborhood of Broma in Vancouver (around Broadway and Main) used to have salmon streams and a temperate rainforest. Now it has hipsters.
by Brendan Harrison | Apr 12th 12:54 pm
When white supremacists moved into my neighbourhood, I was forced to reconsider what community meant to me.
by Monica Meneghetti | May 2nd 11:45 pm
Queer Banffites come in every stripe but, like other wildlife, most of us are well-camouflaged.
by Christin Geall | May 3rd 10:16 pm
In my neighborhood, houses float out to sea. They’re jacked up from their foundations, lifted onto trucks, and barged away.