We see her from our kitchen window, walking early with purposeful strides, and three, sometimes four, large cloth bags loaded on her short stout frame. Two are slung on her right shoulder, resting on her back as she tilts forward with each step to keep them there. Over her left shoulder, her dark brown hair veils her Latinx features, and another bag hangs with soft fabrics spilling over the opening. We wonder about her parcels which go back a forth and speculate that she is a seamstress carting frayed fabric home each evening, and returning them repaired each morning. She is mending the neighbourhood.
We see him from the front window most winter mornings in a white pickup truck with a plow of the front, preparing to push mounds of snow out of driveways making way for cars to move. My husband who has, for many years, ascribed nick names to our neighbours, calls him “Grumpy Cat”, and my youngest chastises him for what he sees as cruelty. I admire this man who lives with his two teen children and his cancer-ridden mother a few doors down the street; his garage and front yard is a mechanics shop, small engines and trailers and metal equipment strewn about in some attempt to organize. Last summer, he build a structure inside his pickup holding his tools in place to prevent them swimming about the back on his way to tend to the lawns of the neighbourhood.
We see her sometimes, but not often. She lives in a building of rent-to-income apartments just a block from where we live facing the transit way, a bike path running alongside the front edges of its lawn. We see her bent down in the earth, tending flowers, pulling weeds, beautifying the beds that flank this twenty story tower. Each time that we pass, I hope she will turn her youthful dark brown face in my direction so I can smile and wave hello to my neighbour. But she stays facing away, looking only at her plants proccupied in tending them, the life growing in front of her.
We see him struggle up the sidewalk, cerebral palsy gripping him, his chin jutting up towards the sky, each stride a monumental task in forward motion on the toes, hands gripping the metal bars of his walker with each push along the pavement. Deep lines are carved into his face but it is difficult to tell his age. Sometimes we see him sitting on a park bench, the only time his body is still, and as he passes us this morning, my husband playfully asks, “Staying out of trouble?” His face lights up, and his smile overwhelms me as I see the lines move up towards his gleaming joyful eyes. We all laugh as we glide and he stutters by and I feel the neighbourhood in his presence.
The glossy magazine announcing our neighbourhood arrives on the door and I seeth a bit inside. White perfect people, families of wealth and privilege, are the only versions in this two dimensional unreality. In my mind I am screaming, “This is not my neighbourhood!” I think of sending a letter asking them why they do not profile these people of the neighbourhood, but I know why. I then decide to send it anyway.