Ours was the second house built on the street we have lived on for 40 years. It took about a year for all 25 modest houses to be built. By that time 53 children lived here. Later two houses were built on the ledges that had made those lots less desirable. It was a wonderful neighborhood, with friendly and caring people. The builders had planned two long curves on the short street so that cars would drive slowly. There was a large park which eventually had swings, slides, and a ballfield made into a skating rink in the winter. It was, in fact, the perfect place to bring up kids. I have written of it several times, most extensively here.
About ten years ago our next door neighbor Dot moved away to live with her daughter, and I can tell when I talk to her that her years here were her golden age. Her house was the command post. She knew all the news; she always had a hand in planning the showers, the chivarees and the anniversary parties. Most of the neighbors would visit her a couple times a week, some every morning, to check in. She would give you a cup of tea, and she always had a homemade cookie or biscuit to go with it. She was good to the kids. When our youngest son confessed that he had his doubts about Santa, I asked him, Who do you think brings the presents? He said, “Dot?”
She had a series of medical problems: TB, trouble with the arteries in her head, heart, a complicated genetic disease. She remained cheerful during all these. Her husband died of cancer, her son of a heart attack, and yet she remained cheerful. Three years ago, in her early 80’s, she fell down the stairs (she thinks she blacked out), remained there on the floor for several hours with a broken neck, internal bleeding, a broken wrist and other injuries. Her daughter came home and found her, called the ambulance, and at the hospital they determined that she needed the expertise of the doctor at the Saint John hospital, so they flew her there. She spent the next few months in a metal halo screwed into her skull, the most appalling looking thing you ever saw. She could still joke.
This week we will have a reunion, a birthday party for her and for our neighbor on the other side, now a widower. Dot will make Jack’s favorite beef dish. We will recite the old stories of a golden age.