“Who the hell lives this close to the border?”
It was the question I kept asking myself ten years ago, driving
around the countryside looking for a house to live in with my hubby and three
kids. It turns out the answer is me.
Well into my 36th year of living very happily in Montreal, it had never even occurred to me to leave the city. That is, until number three was on her way and the horrifying prospect of shoehorning three kids under age three into one small bedroom struck. All I had to do was acknowledge that a move to the country was a faint possibility for my husband to start combing through MLS at bathtime. Six weeks after Frances was born, we traded in our shoebox on the plateau for a big, old farmhouse in Abercorn, a stone’s throw from the Vermont border.
It’s taken some adjusting — adjusting I forget about until I meet recent transplants and watch as they struggle to slow down and smile at passersby. I’ve seen more than one newcomer writhe in social agony as they realize that the maligned cashier, mechanic or soccer coach they’ve been kvetching about is in some remote way related to the person whose ear they’re bending. Lesson number one, anonymity does not exist in small towns.
Being a neighbour means something here. Whether it be the cup of sugar that keeps you from having to make the twenty kilometre round trip to the store, the non-diesel engine that starts on those minus 35 degree mornings and provides a boost for your or the dreaded phone call informing you that your pigs are rooting up the neighbour’s prized tulip bulbs. Again. We’ve had to cast a wider net to find people we like to drink wine with. Our local friends aren’t the people we grew up with or went to school with or even work with. Unlike our city friends, they aren’t a reflection of who we are; they are a diverse group, covering the spectrum of age, class and careers. Our search for local, organic meat , for example, unearthed great pals — people who are kind to their animals and even kinder to us. They have taught us a lot about how to be there for one another (without having been asked) — appearing on our doorstep in billy boats and work garb to trade a day of killing and plucking chickens for a day of frozen-fingered sausage-stuffing.
Living in the boondocks has required a certain measure of reinventing — as working takes a back seat to living — and seems to be more about choices. Perhaps it’s harder to get into a rut when you’re so completely off the track. I suppose that what it boils down to is that Abercorn hasn’t really changed that much. But it sure has changed me.
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.