Bits and Bites of Everyday Life


When the neighbourhood comes alive…

True North Perspective

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day and because of the beautiful weather, the whole neighbourhood came alive ... people enjoying the outdoors, sprucing up their property, making it ready for summer living.

Warm weather was late coming this year and I must admit we were all growing impatient! After very heavy winds and rain which downed trees, caused power outages and scattered light (and not so light) objects all over the place, we were tempted to think spring would not happen and we would head straight to summer. Those powerful winds broke my cherished 18-apartment birdhouse and sent it crashing to the ground. I thought, “This is it! The base is broken, it won’t go up anymore.”

About two years ago, the post had rotted and collapsed but my brother-in-law had replaced it for me.

The following Monday, I couldn’t see the birdhouse and thought it had rolled down the municipal ditch at the back. I made a note to go and check that out. But on Wednesday, I caught my neighbour Rick in the process of putting up my renovated and newly painted birdhouse. As I joined him in the backyard, he exclaimed: “Shucks!!! I wanted to surprise you! I secretly retrieved the birdhouse and repaired it with my dad.” I was deeply touched! This birdhouse had been built specifically for our place and painted in the same colours as our house. Built originally for purple martins, it had housed many families of tree swallows and sparrows who gladly shared the complex. Rick even added a metal shield to prevent squirrels from terrorizing the birds and snatching their eggs.

I assured Rick he would need my help to lift that heavy birdhouse and swing the pole upwards into position. We gave it a try but only managed to lift it halfway. So he called on his wife Sylvie to join us while I retrieved the stepladder from my garage. This time when we got it midway up, we were able to rest the huge house on the top rung of the ladder. Rick went up the ladder to hold it steady while we pushed forward so the pole could go up the rest of the way. He promptly locked the pole into position and we stood there for a moment, admiring the new look of the famous birdhouse. I thanked them both for their generosity and caring. We agreed Brian was probably smiling from up above as he dearly loved his birdhouse.
Isn’t that what real neighbours do? They care and watch out for one another. I have been blessed with exceptionally caring neighbours. When Brian died, Rick made it a point to clear my laneway after snowstorms and, despite numerous objections on my part, he also did the walkway. Through the years, we have shared our happy moments and sad moments, done housesitting duties for one another, borrowed the occasional cup of sugar, parmesan cheese or mustard for a special recipe ... When their daughters became teenagers, they gave me their swing set ... My grandchildren really love that swing set!
Young Mathilda enjoys the slide.  

Mike and Sarah are equally cherished neighbours. Mike has often helped me out when more muscle power was required for lifting or storing heavy objects. We look out for one another. I love to share my garden produce with my neighbours and the clan.

Sunday, Mother’s Day was celebrated at my house. It started with lunch, then the children played downstairs while we picked up, stored leftovers and loaded the dishwasher. But the real treat was the outdoor games! First the children went over to the swing set. We could hear them sing and laugh as they flew up and down on the swings. Little Mathilda, Sarah and Mike’s daughter, joined in the fun. She often crosses over; it’s like having a backyard mini-park next to home. Sunday, she enjoyed sliding down the attached, pink slide. Weeeh!
Alain, my nephew who is also an excellent neighbour, tunes-up my lawnmowing tractor while Alexandre, another young neighbour does the lawnmowing.
Carole and Robert, Eric and Jean, Gerry, Françoise ... Country living at its best where neighbourhoods share this true community spirit you don’t find everywhere.
My late husband, Brian, loved inushucks. He had built one in a corner of the backyard. “Inukshuk” means “the image of man”. For centuries inukshucks served as beacons in the vast Arctic lands where there were few markers to indicate the way. Today they are also considered symbols of leadership, encouraging the importance of friendship, and reminding us of our dependence upon one another. I know I can rely on my neighbours and they can rely on me!
To all my wonderful neighbours, past and present, I say thank you for being there and for sharing!
Enjoy the fine weather!
P.S. Swallows have been cruising the backyard. I think I will have tenants soon!
Blessings to all!

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