Sunday, July 16, 2006


Religion is more like a response to a friend than it is like obedience to an expert. Austin Farrer

We lucked into a wonderful community. We bought a small (1000 square feet) house in a new subdivision. Ours was the second house built on our street. We chose the plan from a book of small house plans put out by the Canadian government, and since we didn’t have any money, having just come from graduate school in the USA, we chose the smallest. That the government would put out such a book seemed unusually thoughtful. The builders, two brothers, were the kind of men that makes New Brunswick so special – humble, honest, conscientious gentlemen, using the word gentlemen with all its best connotations.

Soon there were people who turned the street into a real community, with carol sings, coffee parties, baby showers, birthday parties. The house of our next-door neighbor became the hub for the adults, with people stopping in for tea frequently. The wife kept us all informed of the goings on, a gossip in a good, not a mean way. A few months after Christmas one year, our youngest son said, “There isn’t any Santa Claus, is there?” “Who do you think brings the presents then?” “Dot?” Dot was this next door neighbor.

Ours is the most humble house on the street, but none of them is grand. The house has served us well, although eight years later we put on an addition. We again got lucky. The woman who designed the addition did a super job, convincing us that it wouldn’t be much more expensive to have a two story addition – a bedroom half in the ground with a room up above. This extra room that we didn’t expect is a lovely room, with large windows on all four sides and a lovely view of our backyard, right now lush with its grove of deciduous trees.

My daughter once told me that playing with Barbie dolls on the deck of one of our neighbors, she thought to herself, I’ll never be as happy again as I am right now. The two builders had designed the subdivision with a park in the middle, and it became the hub of the community for the children. The kids played baseball there, and in the winter the city made a skating rink.

Over the 40 years we have lived on this street, I have often thought of the concept of community, of what makes a good one. In the beginning, there was nothing but mud, and we all had to make lawns, a miracle really, and the kids played on the muddy street, road hockey (new to us), constructing dams and rivers. The builders had also designed the street with two curves, to make it difficult for cars to speed. Most of the residents were New Brunswickers, although there were 8 families “from away.” There were 5 professors, a lawyer, a doctor, two teachers, some businessmen, but most of the men worked for the NB government. Only one of the women worked outside the home, although the rest were plenty busy with volunteering, art, serious hobbies, church.

Of course there were sadnesses. There seemed to be an unusual number of deaths from cancer. Kids got into trouble, but an astonishingly high percentage of them turned out fine. People have moved or died over the years, and the 53 children have all grown up and gone. Of the original 25 families, only 10 remain. That is sad too.

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