Let’s be neighbours

Our neighbourhood is in this interesting place of transition. It’s an area that was settled by Greek immigrants who wanted to be as close to Greektown as possible. Now, those Greek immigrants are getting old, selling the homes they’ve lived in for 50 years and a younger, less Greek population is moving in. Ours is one of the few neighbourhoods in Toronto still open to young, first-time homeowners with normal jobs and only a little cash to throw around.

No wonder it so often appears on Property Virgins.

Directly across the street from us is an old Greek couple. We rarely see them, but we’ve now had a couple interactions. About 3 months after we moved in, once we had finally moved upstairs and hung some curtains in the window, the woman hobbled her way across the street and laboured up our front porch. I saw her coming and got up to meet her. Her knee was bandaged up and her hair was crazy around her head. She said hello with a bright smile. Her accent is thick, but we stumbled through a conversation in which she asked who we are and what we did, and welcomed us to the neighbourhood. She hobbled back across the street.

Last night, at around 6:00, I heard a knock on the door. She stood outside.

“Is your husband here?”

No, not yet. He’s on his way home now.

“Can he come look at my TV?”

Your TV?

“I get 2 channels. It’s not working.”

I’m not sure if he can help…

“But you said he’s an engineer!”

Yes. He’s a civil engineer. He knows about buildings.

“Oh.”

But I can ask him and see if he can help, but I can’t guarantee anything.

She left, crossing the street with a little more pep than the first time we had met. When the Husband arrived, we both agreed — we needed to be neighbourly, even if we were unable to help. This woman had reached out to us. How could we say no?

We walked across the street and were met with a wide open hug and jubilation. In the living room, her husband reclined amid a pile of blankets, moving little, but awake and aware.

96, she told us. He’s 96 and has about 2 more months to live. She chatted away as we examined the mess of wires behind her TV. We had nearly given up before we found the issue: the cable box had been turned off and then the batteries removed from the remote. We added some, fixed the problem and got her cable running again. In the meantime, I think we received about 4 hugs, and the whole time we were there, she was all smiles and thank yous. At some point, I may have agreed to have coffee with her, though I couldn’t say for sure. Picking out her words was difficult at best — the language barrier is strong.

When we left, she had her TV working, but I think we gained so much more. We gained a friend of a different generation, a woman with plenty of wisdom and a lot of love to give. We gained another neighbourhood connection, another member of the community that will make our home so much more than a home for us. We were given a glimpse into their lives, lives of people who are the opposite side of life than we are — that is, by far, one of the most humbling, the most beautiful experiences.

I am grateful for our neighbourhood, thankful that she would trust her neighbours enough to ask for help when she needs it. I love this place in which we live.

Tell me about your neighbourhoods. I want to hear your stories!

0 thoughts on “Let’s be neighbours

  1. That is a very touching story. It made me compelled to tell my neighbor story! We were blessed when we moved into our neighborhood 11 years ago to have neighbors that we loved. John and Sue were the type of neighbors that knew no strangers. He was in marketing, she a very loved school teacher. Five years later, Sue passed away due to complications after surgery. To say we were all shocked and devastated is beside the point. In the coming days, months, and then two years, we remained solid friends to John. He then met another woman from another state, married and moved away. He trusted us and asked us to take care of his home while he started his new life. We had quite the shoes to fill to care for our own home and his home. Then came the day that he finally decided to sell the house. We were sad to see him leave, but could not have expected the joy we would not know would come from our new neighbors. Jessica and Justin and their almost 3-year at the time Liam, moving in. Jessica was pregnant with their little girl, due 6 months after moving in. July came around and Peyton was born. We all fell in love with her. Two months later, Jessica called me because her husband was out of town and she thought Liam looked "wrong" and wanted my opinion. He was going to the bathroom non-stop and was super thirsty. It was 4:30 pm and I insisted she call her pediatrician. I did not want to tell her that I suspected diabetes. The pediatrician told her to take him to one of the emergency care clinics. She asked if I would babysit her two-month old breast-fed daughter, Peyton. She came back from the visit in about an hour and was beside herself, yes, indeed Liam did have diabetes and she needed to take him to the Children's hospital that is in downtown — 35 mile drive and keeping in mind, she had just moved here from another state and did not know directions, plus she was distraught. I immediately called my husband that was picking up our 13 year-old daughter from piano lessons. I asked if he would take them to the hospital. He rushed home and helped Jessica load up Liam and take them to the hospital. I stayed home with little Peyton and some (thankfully) saved up breast milk in the freezer. My husband stayed with her all night long in the emergency room since her husband was many states away trying to get home on the first plane he could in the morning. Ever since that day, we have been like surrogate parents to this young family and I wish I could change things and take away Liam's juvenile diabetes. They always tell us they are lucky to have us for neighbors, but I think we are the lucky ones. We have learned so much from Liam and his diabetes. More than a five-year old should have to worry about in Kindergarten. Oh geez, I drug this out so long. But, I wanted to say I totally understand where you are coming from and I am so happy that your Greek elderly couple have you as wonderful neighbors.

  2. What a sweet story! ๐Ÿ™‚ Our neighbourhood is in transition as well. When we first moved in, we only really got to know the young family next door. However, since we renovated the front entrance, and had Halle a lot of older people in the neighbourhood stop when we're outside to comment on how the house looks, or to ask about / congratulate us on the baby! ๐Ÿ™‚ It's not a bad little area, and it's only getting better!

  3. beautiful story nette! we are still trying to figure our neighbourhood out – there is a lot of coming and going as many houses on the street are rentals but i hope to some day have a strong connection with neighbours!

  4. What a great story and what a nice deed for you and your husband.

    I love the part of town that you live in. I grew up in Toronto and lived there for 23 years. Since then, I have lived in Oakville for 8 months, followed by 6 years in Burlington. I miss Toronto a lot (especially since my friends are all still there), but I wouldn't change where I live now…..on a cute, quiet tree-lined street just a short walk from the lake.

    If you read my blog, you may have caught wind that it's also the house that my husband grew up in. We bought the house from his parents when they were downsizing to a condo.

    I love the neighbourhood that we live in now because of all the memories and stories that it holds from my husband's youth. I love that the neighbours all remember him when he was a boy delivering their newspapers. And, he remembers all of his paper route customers. He even remembers the name of the lady who used to hide her purse in her stove. Every time that he would go and collect payment from her, she would say, "Hold on, dear," then go into her kitchen, open her stove, pull out her purse and pay him in small bills. So cute. And, so long ago!

    It's true what you saw about the power of sitting on a porch or renovating your home. Both activities bring neighbours running over. When we moved in, the house was in need of an overhaul. The older neighbours across from us got mad when we ripped out some old bushes. They didn't talk to us for a year….even when they were our bushes (on our property across the street from them) that we tore out. Finally, when we got around to landscaping the front, the upset neighbours came over and told us what a great job we did on the house (which was essentially re-done from the ground right up to the roof). They admitted that they were skeptical at first because, after all, we were just two young kids renovating an old house. Not to mention, my husband was their paper boy too! They couldn't seem to understand that he was a grown man now – not some BMX-riding newspaper boy that likely rode on their lawn.

    We've been in our house for over 4 years now and have gotten to know our neighbours. They are all retired, which is nice because we know our house is under watch while we aren't home. They will bring in our garbage cans and question when a strange car is in the driveway. They fetch our mail when we are away too. It's nice to know there are others watching out for us "young kids."

  5. Thanks Linds! I definitely think that an area full of rentals will change the atmosphere of it. Not that people who rent don't enjoy an atmosphere of community, but I think there's some less connection between renters and the space itself, a space which is an integral part of a neighbourhood. Hmm. Thoughts for a different time perhaps! I hope you find — or can develop! — a strong neighbourhood!

  6. They are all retired, which is nice because we know our house is under watch while we aren't home. They will bring in our garbage cans and question when a strange car is in the driveway. They fetch our mail when we are away too. It's nice to know there are others watching out for us "young kids."

    Yes! We totally experience this! The neighbours beside us are a retired older couple as well. He'll move our garbage cans for us and he notices every strange car that's parked in our driveway — and writes down the license plates to ask us about it later! It's incredibly comforting, isn't it?

  7. What a great story! Our neighbourhood is pretty quiet, with a lot of older couples. The nice thing is that a lot of our neighbours have dogs, so we often see them out walking. They've been so encouraging as we work on our house, always telling us what a great job we're doing and how much we've improved the place already. We even had one neighbour tell us he had plenty of annuals and to stop by anytime if we wanted to take a few home. As you know, fixing up an old house can get pretty discouraging at times, so it means so much to get that kind of support and encouragement from our neighbours!

  8. Oh yes, having dogs makes it SO easy to meet the neighbours! We have a few dog owners in the neighbourhood, but not as many as I would have expected. We meet people from further down the street because of their dogs.

    Have you taken any of those annuals? I love it when people share plants!

  9. What a great, heartwarming story! I don't know why but I just love stories about lovely old people.

    Our neighborhood is strange to me. There are a lot of families with young children and they are very cliquey. Because we don't have kids, they almost act like we're not here sometimes. The other half of our neighborhood is made up of aging artists that see the world through rose colored glasses. I find myself getting frustrated with them a lot because they think the answer to the world's problems – specifically, the increasing crime in our neighborhood – is to hug people more. That's great and all, but I'm not sure that's going to stop Joe Smith from stealing your stereo. I find that because of these very different personalities and lifestyles we don't really connect with our neighbors on any level – emotional, socioeconomically, culturally, etc.

  10. What a great discussion we have here. I was just discussing the pros and cons of renting and I guess I have to say that community might be lacking a little. I love connecting with my neighbors but I just can't bring myself to buy a house. Not yet anyway. I like the freedom for now. But I do make extra special efforts to connect with all of my neighbors. The guy next door to us now sweeps our porch, waters my veggies if I forget, and offers my family large portions of his kill from hunting. No lie. Last month he brought home a deer and I swear we ended up with half of it. We ended up having a combined family barbeque. It was awesome. I hope that wherever I go, I'm lucky enought to have neighbors like the ones I have now and like yours too.

  11. Aw! Great story! I didnt realize your husband is a civil engineer…. Mine too. Actually me too…but i do traffic work.

  12. We live in the same type of older neighborhood. We, however are not as young as you. My daughters are though! Buck lives next door to us, and I brought him to the ER a few months ago. He's weak and was off balance. The young man behind the counter asked what his date of birth was. He promptly respnded April 29, 1918! He kind of took us all by surprise. He's fine now, but we do have a lot of younger families taking over the homes of those that have been here for so long. it's nice to see you appreciating what they have to offer a neighborhood. It's probably a small window of opportunity to interact with people who've seen and experienced so much. Good for both of you!

  13. Such a cute story! So glad you guys were able to help. I can imagine how much she appreciated your visit! We used to live in the country across from 2 cotton fields. Our next door neighbor was a sweet woman in her late 80s. She and my then 5 yr old daughter became fast friends. Whenever we would see my neighbor outside my daughter would run over to her house and keep her company for a bit, there was usually ice cream involved!

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