For the next few days until we leave our house for the last time, my love notes are dedicated to our neighbourhood and community we have built for the last ten years. They are love letters to places and people that have helped raise our children and who have supported our family in different ways. In ten years, we were able to create a small town feel in the middle of a big city.
Today’s note is a blanket love note to all our neighbours on our street who have offered comfort, solace, encouragement, care, support, and love to our crazy homeschooling family of seven…
First an apology.
I am sorry for letting the burdock grow to heights that make you cringe. But I love this plant for many reasons besides it’s medicinal qualities. I am sorry for leaving the bikes out and the porch full of beach gear. I am sorry for the after dinnertime ball bouncing in the alley. I am sorry for forgetting that I have left the windows open and you had to hear for the thousandth time my rhetorical questions such as “Why do people leave dirty dishes on the counter when they should know what to do?” or “Am I the only one that notices the spilt rice on the floor?” or my personal favourite, “Can someone tell me why on God’s green earth would anyone put back an empty fill in the blank in the fridge?” I am sorry that we knock on your doors to borrow an egg or two or a cup of something at least once a week. I am sorry I may have missed returning a greeting because my head was down while I marched five kids in the van to avoid being late. I am sorry for my kids sounding like elephants while they went up and down the stairs on the other side of our shared wall. I am sorry for turning up the dancehall so loud first thing in the morning because it was the only music that would wake my body up. I am sorry for all the house parties with my rowdy family and out-of-control homeschooling friends (you know who you are). I am sorry that my husband works out daily with his shirt off in the backyard. (Actually, I’m not so sorry for that one.)
Not once did you complain about any of it. (Okay, maybe you did mention the burdock a couple of times.)
Instead you bought and planted native flora in the front yard because it was an easy-to-take-care-of solution when my hands were filled with babies. You accepted my children’s baked goods on festival days, sometimes choking down the pastries with burnt bottoms with the kindest of expressions. You asked sincere questions about homeschooling in the beginning and became open to another option of learning. You embraced me with pride when my first born got accepted into a university program of her choosing, an achievement that I think we felt we all shared. You talked to me about spirituality, childbirth, single motherhood, poetry, travel, parenting, trauma, and of course, the damn burdock.
I could confidently send my children out to play each day, sometimes locking the door from the inside for sanity reasons, and know that there was a whole street looking out for them. Rather than berate me for letting my children play outside unsupervised (and perhaps without enough clothes on in the winter), you looked upon it as refreshing and wished the rest of society would follow our lead.
You talked to my children about their sidewalk chalk art, their volleyball tournaments, and their driving lessons. You took the time to show them the tiny cracked robin’s egg you found and the hawk that might have been the guilty culprit. You let them pet your dogs and smell your pretty roses, both of which I couldn’t keep while raising little ones. You gave them babysitting jobs which allowed my second born a sense of independence and confidence while being an arm’s length away from home and which also helped fund my first born’s world travel. You hosted a lunch so that I could meet your friend’s daughter, an ayurvedic postpartum specialist, and sat for hours as I picked her brain. You egg on the kids as they chase Chris and I around the house with the hose on a hot summer’s day.
You were our little village. You made us feel safe to be unconventional out loud. You even offered my oldest a place to stay if she needs to be in Toronto. Home would not be the same without any of you. We all live so close together that we can hear each other’s phone conversations and yes, even intimate exchanges (again, sorry that I left the windows open). We know when each other is home and look after each other’s houses when we leave. When we were away in Costa Rica these past two winters, you shovelled our driveways, collected our mail, and emailed us updates.
We take turns taking the garbage/recycling and green bin to the curb. Sometimes we do it, sometimes you do it. Whoever gets there first. No one keeps score. We all know that each one of us are just trying to do our best. When I mentioned to a neighbour how rage-y I had been as a teen and how I do succumb to lady rage from time to time, she looked at me shocked and said that I was the most peaceful person she had ever known. Cue hugs and tears.
We may not know every detail of each other’s lives but I know enough to see that my family has been surrounded by genuinely good people for the last 10 years. We were the last ones to move in and are the first ones to move out. I can’t believe we are saying goodbye.
We love you and thank you for loving us right back.
P.S. My last parting gift will be removing the burdock. You’re welcome.