I’ve spent a lot of time this past year wishing we had a bigger house in a different neighbourhood.
The truth is, we’re quickly outgrowing our three-bedroom semi-detached with its shared front yard and driveway. I think six years ago Shaune and I made an inadvertently good decision. At the time it was in our price range but we couldn’t have known then how much two children, childcare (Close to $15,000 this year!) and everything else that comes with family life would someday cost us .
Over the years, we’ve grown attached to our little street, made some very good friends with our neighbours and to my delight have connected with some of the parents of Deaglan’s school friends because they live on our street or the one only a block over.
It satisfies a deep yearning I’ve always had, to plant myself firmly in a home, feel connected to it and the people close by.
And yet in the back of my mind I know this rootedness is only practice for the next house we move to. The one I keep calling our “forever” home; the one I imagine will be in another part of town, flanked by like-minded neighbours with kids the same ages as ours, comparable salaries and jobs, maybe a pool in the backyard, and definitely a double car garage for Shaune.
I didn’t grow up dreaming of grand things.
It never occurred to me to imagine a large wedding or granite countertops. I didn’t know I was supposed to want crown moulding or an ensuite. And I watch myself even now, on some level, keeping a distance from a crowd that might make me think these things are important.
A few days ago Deaglan told me that one of his friends, his best friend actually, during play at school, constantly threatens to call the police when things aren’t going right or his way. I dug around a bit with gentle questions and it turns out Reid* threatens to call the “cops” if he feels he’s been wronged or mistreated somehow. He does this all the time according to my boy. I added this information to something else Deaglan told me about Reid a few weeks ago which is that once in a while Reid goes to his Daddy’s house on the weekends without his Mommy.
My heart hurt for Reid. I couldn’t help but play out the scenes of his parents fighting, sometimes violently, before they decided to separate.
Last night our neighbour across the street walked over with her two oldest children. She wanted to let me know that her husband had been arrested again. She wanted us to know in case we were wondering why we hadn’t seen Marcus* around lately.
Their oldest child is also in Deaglan’s class, a tiny raven-haired beauty with the inkiest black eyes you've ever seen. I adore all three kids but this girl, well there’s something about her that makes me ache for a daughter. We’d socialized with the family a few times and almost always call the two oldest girls over to play in our backyard on sunny days.
The mother, my neighbour from across the street, told me that she’d lied to the kids (ages five, four and two), told them that Daddy had gone back to Jamaica* to visit his sick father and might have to stay there for a while. She didn’t think the oldest girl, Deaglan’s classmate, believed it.
All last night my heart hurt for those kids and especially for that little girl. I couldn’t get her hauntingly beautiful but sad eyes out of my mind.
And while I lay there, something else crept in. It wasn’t as noble. It snuck in the way it always does; when I wasn't paying attention. It filled me with shame. I was reminded that I am still, afterall, simple, and human and oh so far, far from perfect.
It was a whisper of a voice urging me to move my family to a better neighbourhood; one without jail sentences and late-night domestic calls.
All day that family across the street, the one with the dad who is sitting in a jail cell, all day they were on my mind. I wondered what was better for my boys: to live in a neighbourhood where backyard barbecues and two-parent families is the norm or one where we are forced to witness the realities of real life.