"Canada's rapid industrial expansion during World War II made an already pressing need for more decent housing acute. Workers flooding into urban centers as well as into areas with no settlement prior to factory construction, were accommodated with small pre-fabricated homes which could be constructed quickly and efficiently."
The house where we live is special. It's part of a special neighbourhood. A neighbourhood destined to be torn down at the end of the war. A neighbourhood which is not only still standing, but which has become a community. We're linked by memories, by pride, by common problems, by tolerance and by the delight we feel in each other. Newcomers are infected by the spirit and joyously embrace it. There are no latchkey kids - neighbours are family. Architectural students regularly tour Wartime and produce glowing treatises on the transformations of the homes and historians solicit the memoires of some of the original residents. We are examined microscopically, and with approval. In the main, you can see that we hugely approve of ourselves. But part of our self-indulgence lies in the fact that, under the patina, we are, as with all families, not without our black sheep. Even the least rebellious of us is not without his aberrations and eccentricities. And I secretly feel that the reason we're so smug lies at least as much in our delight in the rakishness and foibles of our friends and neighbours as it does in our satisfaction in our outward "normalcy."
Our neighbourhood includes all the cliches you can imagine - we have "the neighbourhood gossip," "the welfare bums," "the eccentric spinster," "the inscrutable, spiritual Orientals," "the doyenne," the couple whose floor you could eat off, and their neighbours, whose floor you couldn't eat off and who wants to anyway.
But just as our houses have been transformed over the years, changed from predictable large fours and small sixes to unique living concepts, so the neighbourhood cliches have become personalized - the gossip is found to have a fragile psyche, the guys on welfare help out in a crisis, the spinster shows up at the funeral of an old friend and offers down-to-earth support and advice, the inscrutable Chinese offer tomatoes and gripe about the low-flying planes, the Mr. Clean couple focus on the pain of seeing their daughter leave home.
The pattern of our houses is complex - streets intersect each other at odd angles, crescents predominate. The structure of our houses is diverse - everyone has renovated, added personality, added character. Sometimes, hopelessness shows through, but not often. And the pattern of our lives is not a long and easy road - we are, in the main, a tolerant group. We've all lived through adversity, and acknowledge and share that, just as we acknowledge and share our small joys and triumphs - a new rose has made it through the winter, a son has managed to get through high school and into university, a widow has found new ways of learning to smile.
The neighbourhood has affected the way my children have grown into young adults, and I thank God that they have been so lucky as to grow up in a neighbourhood where French and English are friends, and we can joke with our separatist neighbours about the referendum. And they have grown up surrounded by black and occidental and oriental people who live in harmony with each other and relish learning something of each others' customs. Our next door neighbours are Chinese, and this summer they built the most wonderful gateway into their back garden. It looks just like the entrance to a pagoda, and we all admire it greatly. One of our Haitian families has a girl about the age of my own two. Every year at our annual Easter party, all the children would make bunny ears and paint their faces, and Jenny was nicknamed, with friendly delight, "the chocolate bunny."
When my children were little, Madame Martin from next door was their babysitter, and they began learning French there. We still share birthday parties with her large, wonderful family of children and grandchildren, and we don't consider it worth our while to squabble over trees and fences. Speaking of fences..... yes, it is true that good fences make good neighbours, but what I cherish about our neighbourhood is not the superficial fences that divide us, but the very real barriers that are broken which allow us to unite. Living here is one of the legacies that I have given my children.
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