Community & Current Events

Discover the true meaning of community

Discover the true meaning of community

Photography by © Image by: Photography by © Author: Canadian Living

Community & Current Events

Discover the true meaning of community

Life in High River
by Emily Senger

It takes a village to raise a child. Or, in my case, a town. High River, Alta., a farming community south of Calgary with a population of about 8,000 at the time, was where my parents built their dream home to raise two little girls. It was a grey two-storey with a wraparound porch and a big garden out back.
High River was the town where my dad set up his practice as a family doctor and became a pillar of the community. It was the town that rallied around my mom when he died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving her a single parent. It was the town that helped her land a job at a local school. It was the town, and a few savvy matchmakers, that helped her find love again in a kind man willing to add two more kids to his family.
It was the small town that became too small when I reached my teen years, the town where nosy neighbours watched my every move, where I couldn’t walk down the street without seeing someone I knew. It was the town I couldn’t wait to escape the moment I turned 18.

Returning to my hometown
 And last year, it became the town that ushered me into the next stage of my life: It was the town where I said my vows. When my fiancé popped the question, we examined many options: tropical destinations, the West Coast, Toronto city hall. But our conversations, and our thoughts, kept coming back to my small town. With a couple of phone calls and some good advice from my mom, we discovered the perfect reception venue: The brick and sandstone building that served as the town hall when I lived in High River, and as a post office and RCMP detachment before that, has since been resurrected into a charming bistro and bar.

The 82-year-old building, now named Carlson’s on MacLeod, remains a community hub, a place to listen to live music and gossip about the crops, the weather, and the births, deaths and marriages in my hometown.
Today, a decade after I left High River, there are more stoplights and chain restaurants – but the community that raised me is still there. On the day we said “I do,” a former teacher acted as justice of the peace and our neighbours hosted the ceremony in their garden with a view of the Rocky Mountains. The potted flowers lining the path I walked toward my future husband were ones planted, watered and weeded by family, friends and neighbours. 
On that day, when my mom and stepdad walked me down the aisle, the entire community stood behind me.

Page 1 of 4 -- Discover life in the quaint town of Brampton, Ont., on page 2
Life in Brampton
by Miriam Osborne

My friends and I were always planning our escape. As teenagers, we moaned about how boring Brampton, Ont., was compared to every other place on the planet. With a population of more than 500,000 – which is rapidly growing – Brampton is a rather large city, but “large” does not mean much to 17-year-olds when there are only tired strip malls, Tim Hortons and 7-Eleven parking lots to hang out at. We made fun of our home city and threatened to leave it the second we were old enough.

While I was home from Toronto for a visit in late August 2010, my family, knowing how much I enjoy farmer’s markets, insisted I check out the one in downtown Brampton. I was doubtful that a farmer’s market in Brampton could be better than the many I’ve been to in Toronto, in particular the Riverdale Farm farmer’s market and the Evergreen Brick Works Farmer’s Market.

But I went, and I ended up eating my words – along with some samosas, falafels and fresh tomatoes picked just hours before. The market was bursting with a vibrancy that I had not seen in my home city before.

Rediscovering Brampton
Every Saturday morning, a stretch of Main Street is closed to traffic and turned into an exciting strip of Greek, Caribbean and Middle Eastern stalls and, of course, local farmers’ stalls too. The smell of fresh food wafting through the thick, humid air mixed with the sounds of live music and many different languages: It was intoxicating.

I walked up and down the strip and stopped at every table, sometimes recognizing families who had been farming in the area for decades, selling the juiciest corn and tomatoes you’ll ever eat. Others were selling bright saris or Polish sausages and perogies. The large crowd was a happy, friendly group, as diverse as the stalls that lined the small street. And just off to the side of the main market was a place for local artists to sell paintings and crafts, and for musicians to play tunes.

As I looked around, I was struck by how – ahem – pretty this part of Brampton is. Though the city has seen massive expansion of sprawling cookie-cutter suburbia over the past decade, this quaint, narrow street is lined with beautiful flowers in planters, architecturally impressive historic brick buildings, cafés, modern restaurants and boutiques. The downtown has kept a small-town feel with its shop-lined streets and neighbouring parks, complete with mature trees and a landmark gazebo.

Maybe I’m romanticizing how fabulous this market is, or maybe I was suffering from heatstroke. In any case, on that hot summer day I looked at the city I had been so happy to leave behind and thought, Brampton, you’re all right. I’m sorry it took me so long to notice.

Page 2 of 4 -- Learn all about life in a small Prince Edward Island town on page 3

Life on Prince Edward Island
by Derek Dunn

A dashing pair of manifestly stable parents could be spotted crossing the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island on a warm summer’s evening, returning to the capital city of their childhood, where they had their first kiss. We had spent a day on the road with two little ones who were threatening to roll their eyes at life for the first time.
To many islanders, our Ontario licence plate would brand us as yet another Upper Canadian family in town to see Anne at the Confederation Centre, or to buy a jar of red clay or a potato-shaped rock with googly eyes for a mere $9.95.
But no. P.E.I. – the Garden of the Gulf, the Cradle on the Waves – is not a tourist destination for us. When we stop in Charlottetown and a front door opens to the familial hugs we’ve ached for, we know we are home. Seafood chowder is waiting on the stove, no matter how late it is. We can’t be tourists because we’re family. Certain angel-haired cousins don’t spread sleeping bags on their bedroom floors days in advance for tourists. And our friends since childhood don’t pick up where they left off with tourists, as if nothing was lost during long bouts back on the mainland.
Being tourists in your hometown
But yes. We are tourists. The colours are too bright in Charlottetown, the rows of pastel clapboard façades too charming, the thoroughly scream-worthy ice cream enjoyed while flip-flopping along Victoria Row too delightful. (Let’s spend too much on a trinket. It’s shaped like a potato!)
Or we are both tourists and locals, because our kids want to visit our elementary schools for the first time, despite the buildings being barren in summer. They peek in a window, kick a ball on the playground, sit on a step and remain oblivious to my disturbing description of how we’ll be sucking juice from lobster claws on Grampy’s back deck later that afternoon. 
They seem preoccupied, imagining what Dad’s life was like as a schoolboy. I join them in gazing at the still-infinite playground. Then they become ghosts with invisible light sabres, laughing and chasing each other in the struggle for galactic domination over the basketball court. Are we tourists or islanders? Meh, if the kids never roll their eyes, it will never matter what they call us.

Page 3 of 4 -- Ever wonder what life is like in Saint-Lambert, Quebec? Learn all about it on page 4

Living in Saint-Lambert
by Laurie Mackenzie

Before I visit my hometown of Saint-Lambert, Que., a spring enters my step. My mother still lives there, so the joy of seeing her doubles the pleasure of going home. When I was a child, the annual La Fête de Saint-Lambert meant a pancake breakfast in the town square and the chance to spend my allowance at the sidewalk sale. 
As an adult, these few days in August, which I still faithfully attend, fill me with a sense of belonging and unabashed pride for this city that combines the je ne sais quoi of Quebec culture with parks aplenty and genteel bilingual coexistence. At the centre of Saint-Lambert is what the town’s 21,500 residents affectionately call The Village. There you’ll find the basics, as well as a fromagerie, a pasta shop and Taylor’s, the three-storey department store where Montreal magician Magic Tom used to entertain the kids.
Sweet treats in Saint-Lambert
Two of my favourite treats can be found in The Village: a perfectly delicate croissant filled with a generous ribbon of dark chocolate at Aux Beaux Tilleuls, and the terrasse menu at L’Ancien Chablis (the fire station is kitty-corner to the restaurant and sometimes adds a little dinnertime excitement). Beyond The Village are tree-lined streets – Pine, Oak and Maple avenues to name a few – perfect for walk-and talks with friends.
Saint-Lambert’s added bonus is that it’s across the river from utterly cool Montreal. The big-city lights were close enough to make cosmopolitan living part of my upbringing, but far enough to make getting to know the pizzazz of Montreal a graduated pastime. Saint-Lambert is the recurring backdrop to my life: My grandparents settled there, my parents lovingly raised my sister and me there, and my husband wisely proposed to me in front of Bijouterie Rivet (the Saint-Lambertan version of Tiffany and Co.).
My eyes well with tears each time I leave, driving under the canopy of trees along Logan Street, passing familiar parks that whisper tales of my teenage years, crossing Victoria Bridge with a view of Mount Royal and then merging onto Highway 20 westbound to Ottawa. Once again, I’m leaving home.

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This story was originally titled "Hometown Tourist" in the August 2012 issue.

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Community & Current Events

Discover the true meaning of community