Neighbourhood Mending – 19/31 #SOL20

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.

 

Published by Melanie White

I am an English and Media Studies teacher, and Department Head of Fine Arts at Nepean High School in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I am concerned with equity and antiracist practices while recognizing that I am speaking from a position of privilege and continuing to learn.

16 thoughts on “Neighbourhood Mending – 19/31 #SOL20

  1. Such a thought provoking post spotlighting those who are often not โ€œseen.โ€ The language of description vividly portrays each neighbor. This is a reminder of the little things we can do to honor our community at large.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is very powerful, Melanie. As a kid, I grew up in a very poor family. It’s horrible when you think people are judging based on something that’s not a person’s fault. There are many sociological reasons as to why people are where they are and I’m so glad that you understand this. That makes you an amazing teacher! #equity
    Thank you for the great read!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Sherry. Poverty is a very misunderstood issue of inequity and the complexities are part of teaching. I’m sure your firsthand experience gives you insight which makes your compliment all the more meaningful.

    Like

  4. What lovely pictures you have created of the less fortunate in your neighbourhood and their response to being noticed by someone. I especially like the phrase ‘mending the neighbourhood’ as in the title and the old lady. Yes, the divide between rich and poor never gets less!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, send it anyway. Even if no one reads it nor changes their perspective. Send it anyway. We have to at least try, don’t we? Thanks for writing. I enjoyed the tone of your piece. Almost velvety in places.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We get a magazine EXACTLY like that too. Next time I’m writing them a letter. ๐Ÿ™‚ It sounds like you have a lovely neighbourhood. I have been watching my neighbours too. Many people walking past our house are people I don’t recognize. If my daughter and I are out walking, however, we always make friends with the people who are walking dogs.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your descriptions were so detailed I could picture each person. It reminded me of a book I used to use in my classroom in the late 90s- an accordian book that described a neighborhood and there was a page for each person. I wish I remembered the title!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I admire how clearly you see the people in your neighborhood, how you take the time to notice them and how they make the fabric of your life more rich. I am glad that you wrote the letter. We need to make it clear that our society is richer because of the variety of people in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bravo! Write that letter. As I read the pieces of your neighborhood, I fell in love w/ the people and felt wrapped in a quilt. It made me feel better about living in a neighborhood instead of in the woods, which is what Iโ€™ve been yearning lately. My husband also knows everyone in our neighborhood. He keeps me informed.

    Liked by 1 person

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