Inch by inch, row by row

On Friday I went to a neighbourhood volunteer appreciation dinner with a friend who is a lot of fun and excellent company. I have to admit that I was a bit leery to go at first; it was to take place in our local sportsplex, and I had visions of a potluck meal on long tables in a cold, florescent-lit room festively decorated with tin foil on the wall, but it was nothing like that at all. It was very fun and I won a door prize: a ten piece French white corningware set! I was excited about that, even more excited when I saw what some of the other prizes were; a friend of mine won a large plaster lawn ornament in the shape of a bear cub lying on a log, so I felt like I won the door prize lottery.

My neighbourhood was established in the early 1960s, and there are many people here who are original house owners. My street, in particular, is chock-full of seniors. There are very few children, as evidenced by our annual lack of trick-or-treaters and the plethora of grandparent-style lawn ornaments and swan-shaped flower pots. The boys were playing in the sprinkler a few weeks ago, shrieking and laughing, and I asked my elderly next-door-neighbour if they were bothering her. She responded sarcastically “Yes. I hate the sound of children’s laughter.” Then she told me about the years when the street teemed with children, and a summer’s day would be filled with noise and chaos and now it’s just my two, at the end of our long, senior-filled street.

Walking my dog through the neighbourhood during the day has given me occasion to meet a lot of my retired neighbours: generally the people I see are the husbands, relegated to the front yard to get out from underfoot, working on their immaculate lawns and always happy to stop and chat and pet my dog and ask about the boys. Those yards are always maintained, the walks are shovelled in the winter and swept in the summer, the grass is thick and green and the gardens are filled with perennials and also annuals I associate with old people: marigolds and petunias, evenly spaced and orderly. Then there are the yards of the people who have grown too old and infirm to keep up with them, overgrown and weedy, the gardens that were once nicely shaped and are now shaggy looking, a few perennials valiantly peeking through the crab grass and dandelions that are choking them out. These are the people who won’t leave their homes, despite interventions from family members they are determined to stay put.

A man on our street died recently, in such a gruesome and horrible way that I once again promised myself that if I am ever elderly and alone, I will hightail it to the nearest old folk’s home where I will take up shuffleboard and cards and eat soft, sweet desserts every night and flirt with the male orderlies. I will grow African violets in little ceramic pots and hope that someone is digging the weeds out of my beloved flower gardens.


  1. I love the diversity of our neighbourhood. We had an original owner in our house before we bought. I had asked her several times in the first few years to come visit us at the house but she would never come. Now I wonder if maybe she wanted to keep her memory of the house the way it was. At least she knew when to move on to sweet desserts and laying shuffleboard.

  2. Your neighbourhood actually sounds great (minus the horrible death of course). We don’t really live in a neighbourhood – it’s more like a street with houses on it. No one talks to anyone else (including me). There are houses only on the one side of the street. And the street is so busy no one is ever in their front yards. Luckily the back yard is fantastic.

    Sorry you missed out on the bear lawn ornament. That sounds like a sweet prize your friend scooped.

  3. Mrs.Mayhem says

    I guess the lesson is to enjoy this time of your life, however stressful and harried it may feel. Sure, the elderly people have manicured lawns and time, but joy and laughter is much more important. I agree with you about moving on when it’s time.

  4. I love your last paragraph. Isn’t that the way the end should be?!

    That said, I love the description of your neighborhood, I can totally picture it.

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