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Daria Salamon
Wednesday
Dec302015

A Small Village In A Big City

Addie Prentice, 17, traveled throughout Asia with us this summer. He's our neighbour, and one of our kids' (6 and 9) best pals; Isla calls him her "brother from another vaginer". He's also one of the coolest 17 year olds I know. After graduating, Addie plans to get a VW van and travel around South America. (What he doesn't know is that we're coming.)

Upon returning to school in September, Addie had to write an essay about someone who has had a big influence on him. He chose to write about our family. (And here I thought the kid would be irreparably damaged after spending 2 months, 24/7 with us. I'm pretty sure he still gets nightmares from Isla's yelling fits!) 

This is his essay. He gets an A+ from us!

A Small Village in a Big City  by Addie Prentice

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that community is dead. That there is no trust and partnership between neighbours. I can, however, tell you that statement is false. My neighbours and I are very close. We leave doors unlocked and freely walk into each others’ houses to say hello. We share a lawnmower. Once when my mum was baking a cake, I went to their house and asked not for a cup of flour but their countertop mixer, which I waddled home down the street. When I think about buying a house in ten years, I do dream not of the biggest house with an in-ground pool or beach front city property, but to be surrounded with neighbours like the ones I am growing up with. They have been a huge influence on my sense of community, who I am and who I want to be.

My neighbours have had a massive impact on living in Osborne Village. For as long as I can remember, my neighbours have been there for me. If my parents could not drive me to a practice for my latest sport phase (that lasted never longer than 6 months), they took me. If I came home one night to an empty house and a note on the counter that said leftovers in the fridge, guess where I went for dinner? The year they first got a trampoline, I got more use out of it than they did, freely inviting both myself and friends over for bouncing time. All of this has had a powerful impact on my sense of community. I think my friends are weird when they do not know everyone on their side of the block by name. I have grown up freely letting myself into others’ houses to save them the pain of coming to the door, and hearing knocks on my second floor bedroom door because Oskar and Isla want to know if I want to come swimming. I always have assumed being so close with the people who lived around you is naturel.

The summer of 2015 was the best summer of my life. It changed who I am. Last December, my neighbours Rob, Daria, Oskar, and Isla Blue departed to travel the world for a year. They had made their way through Somoa, New Zealand, and Australia, when they invited me to join them for the summer in south East Asia. We travelled together for two months. Rob and Daria took on a position somewhere between my friends and my parents. Oskar and Isla became my brother and sister, although I have thought of them that way for long before. Last summer they showed me an entirely new side of the world. We became a family, closer than I am with my own. We lived a different life: sleeping in new beds every night and becoming reliant on street meat for subsistence. Last summer influenced me in more ways than I can describe. I witnessed true poverty, poor living conditions and unequalled amounts of pollution. I also woke up to million dollar views on a twenty-dollar a night hotel budget. All of the traveling changed my world view and who I am.

 

Growing up with les gamines on my street has had an impact on who I want to be. Oskar looks up to me like I shit gold. I went to pick him and Isla up from school last week, and that boy was the very first one out the door. He ran straight to me to tell me all about his day, before introducing me to all his classmates. He thinks I am the coolest guy on the block. It makes me want to be a better, more interesting person. He is so much like I was when I was his age, and he reminds me of who I wants to be. Getting his approval is like getting approval from my younger self. Oskar has a big influence on me, much like I have on him, and I hope we stay close for our whole lives. His family have changed, and continue to change, who I want to be.

 

My neighbours have had a huge influence on me. They have shaped my sense of community, the person I am and the person I want to grow up to be. I know people who have moved out to the suburbs to raise their kids. I hear ads on the radio with “(Insert small town surrounding Winnipeg), a great sense of community” as their slogan. However in the heart of the city, one bridge away from downtown, I have grown up in a place every fear stricken, media worshipping parent dreams of finding.  I find it hard to imagine living anywhere else but Osborne Village.

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Reader Comments (1)

Addie, this knocked my socks off, made me teary from the opening sentence. As parents, we never truly know what's going to benefit our kids. But giving your kid (or anyone) a sense of community and belonging is one of the deepest, most meaningful gifts there is. You instantly made me want to grow and strengthen my community. Isn't that what it's all about? Great essay! Thanks for sharing.
Jody

December 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJody Prentice

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