What losing my mind taught me

On the 16th of May, the year of our Lord 2020, I woke up with a pounding headache, and completely unaware of where I was. According to my husband, I kept asking about our oldest daughter (who moved out in Jan of this same year) and repeating the same question almost as soon as it was answered. He thought I was fooling around so he started making fun of me. Irritated, I walked next door to my son’s room and peppered him with the same question. He was quite alarmed by it all and either of his own accord, or my suggestion, he called 9-1-1. The paramedics came in, checked my vitals which were normal but still wanted to take me to the hospital for further observation. Apparently, I refused to accompany them on account of a) not wanting my son to be worried b) not wanting to pay ambulance fees (this second point makes me chuckle that even in my madness, I am still cheap 😊 )

My husband eventually convinced me to go to the ER, and due to covid, he dropped me off at the entrance and left me there for several hours while they checked me for stroke and concluded that I wasn’t experiencing one. While doing an CT scan, they accidentally scanned my chest, where they found clots in my lungs- complete happenstance (or was it??). I was immediately started on blood thinners, and sent on my merry way. Official diagnosis: TGA (Transient Global Amnesia) a.k.a something happened to my brain causing temporary amnesia but not much is known about the “something”. It apparently is only supposed to occur once in a life time and more often than not in older population, which at 43 I apparently does not include my demographic. I was foggy for a day or two after that but eventually recovered my prior memories but none of the duration of the episode.

First forward to Sept 2nd the same year of our Lord 2020 and I woke up unaware of myself or my surroundings again #theylied. For some reason, I still kept asking for my oldest daughter, who thankfully came home a few days after the episode and eased my mind. I have less details about this second one, perhaps because my family is getting tiredness of the madness: pun totally intended hahaha. The fog lasted a good two weeks after this second episode, and as I write (close to 3 weeks later), I still have pockets of my memories since the episode that are all but gone. Incidentally, my older memories resumed perfectly and as usual the day of is gone.

I’ve never been the smartest person in the room, or the prettiest, I’ve been the tallest sometimes and on some days depending on my mood, either the loudest or quietest: in other words I am your typical average person. That didn’t stop my mind from dreaming up an alternative life where I am “somebody”. Some of this head in the clouds behaviour was encouraged by my dad when I was young, most of it from all the books I’ve read over the years and every heroine I have idolized in them. Most of my dreams have to do with public service either in the legal or administrative capacities as I am strong believer in changing society one dusty Government file at a time. I have made circuitous attempts to achieve these goals, while balancing the mom and wife life and in all cases fallen flat. BUT, I always had the dream, and as someone always willing and capable to read and advance my knowledge, I figured it was only a matter of time before I brought it to fruition. Until now

In history, books and movies etc, there is the concept of “the masses”. These nameless, faceless group that plays as a backdrop to the main storyline. Sometimes, they are in servitude of the lead character, sometimes they select the lead either in election or by chanting their name in the streets. Sometimes, as in my beloved “GoT”, they are massacred by flying dragons, with nary a mention of the families who go on to curse day the dragon was hatched. They are very important, especially in determining the popularity, or lack of thereof, of the main protagonist but lack individual recognition. Excellence demands rising above that group enough to stand out in whatever capacity and many self-help books have been written about avoiding this grey existence. One may even argue it has fueled the rise of internet and social media stars, who create their own “masses” in the form of likes and followers and chart their own stories of excellence to avoid being seen as failures.

I am not a failure though: I have three beautiful, smart, thoughtful children whom I have raised against all odds. With their dad, whom 25 years later, I still think is pretty hot and I have grown to tolerate if not out rightly appreciate his quarks ; many though they may be 😊. To these 4 humans, and my 4 siblings, and my mom and perhaps my dad, I am not a “mass” but an individual with a plotline to match or even beat many Russian tragedies. Yet to the world, and perhaps finally to my own realization, I am part of the masses. This doesn’t make me feel sad, or want to somehow change the trajectory of my life so far, but infact makes me content. Losing my mind allowed me to see that the thing that I valued the most, which is my ability to learn and retain knowledge, was not mine to lay claim to. I am ok seeing my children and husband thrive and if their path raises them from the masses, I pray to be around to cheer and maybe get a cameo appearance as “woman in the back fainting at the sight of the hero/heroine”.

of death and taxes

It is said those are the two things we can’t avoid in life but as all the rich have shown us, one can buy their way out of tax obligations but when death comes knocking; none can escape.

So I write today with heavy sadness at the news of the passing of Chadwick Boseman. In life, as in death, he lived a quiet existence, only speaking through his art; and what artistic talent that was!

That he went through filming and press for Jackie, Marshall and the Juggernaut that was Black Panther, whilst battling colon cancer and not once playing the victim is testament to his true character and strength.

Watching him in interviews, especially for Black Panther, i saw an ethereal quality about him; he just felt like a god among men. He never carried himself with airs over his successes and his humility felt genuine. This was not a man who chose to be a star but one that allowed God to use him as a vessel and took his calling with honour.

His mention of how an unknown benefactor paid for an advanced acting course in the UK, only for him to later find out it had been Denzel Washington is serendipitous and from my point off view clear proof of divine intervention.

I listened to a commencement address he gave to Howard University; his alma mater. Among other things, he told the graduates to find a passion and a calling because unlike careers, those can be carried across different ‘jobs’. What words of wisdom from someone so young.

The world is much better for his having been in it and I pray with all my heart that his family finds peace and healing through this very difficult time.

Rest in eternal peace Chadwick- until we meet again.

Artistic protest

In my school years, back in the old motherland, the teachers made no secret of the fact that the only students worth their time and effort were the future doctors, engineers and potentially wealthy lawyers. The irony of the fact that they were none of those professions was lost on them, as they pushed us to master theorems and formulas that have since been made obsolete by technology and other advancements.

I wasn’t daft in those courses, but I struggled with Physics so badly that both the teacher and I couldn’t wait for my second year in high school, when I was able to say goodbye to velocities and swinging pendulums for good- the man was at his wits end with me and I can’t say I blamed him.

I digress though because this post is not about my struggles in the sciences, but rather of the relative importance of arts over sciences in real life. The art of speaking for instance (which landed me on the noise-maker’s list one too many times) is a skill that has won more wars than the science of shooting bullets. Whether in the form of diplomacy, or a political leader that knows how to create just the right emotions in people using simple words, this has been a skill that should have been taught and developed more, especially in conjunction with its cousin, “listening”. Nelson Mandela is known more for his oratory skills than for what he created in a lab. So are MLK, JFK and more recently BO (sorry Barrack, your initials don’t lend themselves well to abbreviation). They stirred emotions that resulted in the kind of monumental change that may take another Einstein to produce in scientific terms and in most cases, we are the better for it.

However, the art forms that have me even more enthralled are music and drama. Listening to Bob Marley’s music, such as his songs “war”, “redemption song” etc. speaks so clearly to cultural and societal realities than any economist ever could. He was not beholden to prior ideologies when he stated that “until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior, is finally, and permanently, eradicated and abandoned, everywhere is war”, which was a call to colonized African countries to keep fighting for their freedoms then, just as much as it speaks to current efforts by the Black Lives Matter movement.

And who can forget Nina Simone, singing about Governor Wallace’s madness in real time, at such a time when black bodies could disappear without anyone as much as blinking an eye. Even in times when such musicians did not drive change directly, they inspired others by creating rallying cries that could reach more masses than the leaders’ words.

Who can forget Tupac: the one true prophet of my generation (in my humble and completely biased opinion). I still get goosebumps when I listen to  “changes” because the underlying feeling then, is one that so many today still feel: “is life worth living should I blast myself?” may sound morbid but it’s an honest question against the backdrop of issues like police brutality for the simple act of “existing while black”. In the same song, he castigated drug dealers who sold to children or used children as potters, an observation that carried more weight coming from an “insider” in the community and I’d like to believe that he may have saved a child’s life.

John Lennon’s “imagine” is perhaps an antidote to the hopelessness that Tupac felt because he creates an image of a time where we do not use god (small g intentional) to justify hate, or a time when we are no longer valued on the basis of possessions, or things but as human beings. Period.

There are so many such lyrical prophets across all musical genres but what I find interesting is that the most gifted ones died way too young, often times under a gunman’s hand or under suspicious circumstances.

Case in point, Hachalu Hundessa from Ethopia was murdered recenty, and while I don’t know his music, his story is no different from all other artists who knowingly or accidentally drove social change. Something about their messages drives those opposed to their ideals so mad that silencing them becomes the only way “out”. And yet that does not in any way diminish their music or art, infact it often amplifies it. I mourn with Ethiopian music lovers for the loss of their poet but also know that in death, Mr. Hundessa has created a generation of believers, perhaps even more than he would have in life; heck I am seeking out his music now, even though I don’t understand the lyrics.

So yes, as a mother raised on the “science is better” mantra, I do have to fight the nagging voice that wants to look down on the arts, which should rightfully be viewed as equal to sciences in terms of real change (yes science, we know penicillin was a life changer thanks to you- no shade intended at all)

 As a maturing mother though, I pray that I’ll allow my children to use their voice in whichever way God meant for it to be used. I want to give them the platform they need to hit people’s consciousness with their art because “one good thing about music, is when it hits you, you feel no pain”.

 RIP Bob Marley, RIP Tupac, RIP Nina Simone, RIP Hachalu Hundessa


Growing up, a dog was not man’s (or in my case girl’s) best friend. Dogs were unpaid members of the household that were expected to guard and protect even to the death, but not be seen especially in front of company. Dogs in our neighbourhood were the poor man’s substitute for a watchman; a job that they did perhaps a lot better than their paid human counterparts.

They were given tough sounding names: simba was popular, so was kojak and our own life saver was named Tiger and fierce he sure was. To this day, I do not recall what breed our tiger was, only that like most other guard dogs, he was big and fierce and brown. This was a typical look, with slight coat various in shades of black and brown but nobody had time for tiny dogs.

Most were kept in kennels during the day, often ramshackle tin structures sometimes with a small window covered in chicken wire to allow them to see their prey (or maybe breath). Apparently, the angst from staying in all day circling the same tiny space ensured that once released at night, they would be most hungry (literally and figuratively because not much food was provided) to attack anyone that wanted to harm their owners. The few that were kept out all day were either not menacing enough, or were the retired, death bed versions of their former selves.

 I recall a time when Tiger broke through his flimsy door in broad daylight and found innocent and unfamiliar me hanging around “suspiciously” in the yard. He proceeded to give chase, while barking menacingly and for whatever reason, I ran away from the compound and 10 minutes later leaped across the storekeepers shelve to safety. He was shoo’d away by well meaning customers and I stayed there until one of my siblings who had watched the entire episode from inside the house finally arrived with the leash (and treats) for “our dog”

For reasons such as these, the process of releasing them at dusk required only their most trusted human to be present. Once released, they would stay within the boundaries of their homestead only if the fencing was sturdy enough and howl the night away. However, those who could escape, would pack together with their neighbourhood friends, as they searched for human or small animals to make a meal of. Meeting with such a pack at night was akin to walking towards a group of militias, only one that could only be bribed by a bite of your thigh or worse.

Imagine my surprise when I moved to the USA after University to find that dogs not only lived with their owners inside the same houses but were fed AND clothed too. Watching people walk their dogs initially gave me heart palpitations and 20 years later, a barking dog still stirs my heart. Learning that veterinarians were a big business, and not just to inoculate the precious and useful goats and cows like back home, but to keep a healthy check on dogs and cats was beyond baffling to me.

When I thought of my experience with dogs, it game me some empathy towards their view of me because they, like me, were cultured to see the world that way. For some odd and inexpiable reason, the darker people in society are viewed as “less than” and so even in their home countries, with their countrymen, treating such people in a discriminate manner is seen as maintaining social order, however warped that view may be. Having black and brown people cooking and cleaning after them and even (interestingly enough) raising their children is perfectly acceptable, so long as we remain in our kennels and do not request or worse still demand equal treatment under the law.

I have adopted to know that there are mean dogs who must remained muzzled , small dogs that have a loud barks but no bite, huge dogs that on first glance may seem threatening and scary (looking at you great Dane) but are super harmless and everything in between. I have found the same diversity in humans regardless of race, colour or creed and just as it takes patience and an open mind to understand dogs, so it should be with humans.

At the risk of not ending on a positive note, I can excuse those who were cultured differently and will willingly have the uncomfortable conversations to open their minds. However, I have no time for those that know all this, but still choose willful ignorance, hate and discrimination; to you all I’d tell tiger to “sika!”

What’s the point of it all?

I love to write; nay I loved to write.  There was always a gleam of unseen life that existed in my head when I’d write stories in my primary school compositions. There was an innocence that allowed me to see the beauty in the mundane and allow myself to imagine possibilities that were not supported by my circumstances.  I wish I’d saved such compositions so I could regain that

I find myself devoid of the positivity necessary to write anything of meaning. As I have solidified my status as a legal alien in North America as one side of a scale, the weight of what that encompasses disproportionately weighs me down, causing regret and a dissatisfaction with my current existence that may seem unreasonably negative.

The subject of my current displeasure is a human resources director, who knowingly or not, has made it her mission to frustrate me by pointing out my inadequacies; real or imagined. A person whose very job title includes the title “diversity” spends more time highlighting my differences and ways in which that signifies a ‘lack-of”. Every time I tell myself my skin is too thick to withstand simple microaggressions, she manages to make me forget my vow to rise above it all.

Then I think of people who faced way worse than I did: I think of Nina Simone, penning “Mississippi goddamn” during the height of the civil rights movement. How brave was she to express herself so eloquently, as only a curse sometimes may, knowing full well that the risk she faced from such acts was death itself. This humbles me yes and makes me snap out of the pity-party that is in full swing inside my head.

Yet it does not invalidate the fact that in this day and age; at my age, I should be dealing with issues of a higher calling than petty discrimination. It upsets me to no end that even as the world is facing an existential crisis in the form of Covid-19, people like me are facing it a little tougher; either from lack of social support or from occurrences such as this https://thegrio.com/2020/05/04/white-privilege-crowded-parks-nyc/, which highlight that lady justice is only colour-blind in so far as she doesn’t see black or brown hues.

I want to sit down one day and write a song; a soliloquy to how great life is. A recognition of fulfilled dreams or a ‘sending positive vibes’ letter to my children as they enter adulthood.

I will write that one day: in this world or the next

But today, my tired bones just need to grovel and question the point of it all!


I wonder if COVID-19 will make us better humans

As we begin day one of a 14 day lockdown in Ontario, I have thoughts (completely mine) and questions:

  • How did we get here? How is it that the world with all it’s advancement did not prepare for such a risk- however remote it might have been in anyone’s mind?
  • How do we get from here? I am completely opposed to placing economics over lives but how do we slow or stop the world enough to make reasonable assessments and get out of this better than we got into it?

Yesterday someone made a straight faced comment to me that we (in Canada) will not have sufficient funds to bail us out of this, because Justin Trudeau has wasted it on refugees who come here and are given everything for free. As upsetting as this completely odd and unnecessary pivot from reality was, this individual had a mother and brother who lived their last 15 years on earth in Canada, with full health and social benefits while on disability (in the brother’s case, due to an alcohol related disability). They didn’t work or contribute to their cost of living in any way- but the irony of this was completely lost on this individual. While there is a large population of Canadians who are genuinely good, individuals such as this one, who often are (I hate to say it), immigrants like me, see the world only through their ignorance and xenophobia.

Even in the midst of such a chaotic time, they choose to look backwards, to an argument that is neither here nor there; and it worries me that this God-given opportunity for individual and collective reflection will not be valuable to them because like an obstinate ox, they are firmly placed in their place- even against their own good.

I guess it helps them sleep at night

I wish I had answers to how we, as the world, will get through this. One thing I do know is that we need to break from our every day activities, and seek a lasting solution not only to this pandemic but to future possibilities of the same. In times when Nationalism had become the rallying cry for most leaders, this pandemic calls for even greater co-operation between countries, regions and the world. This issue has showed us that me-first, or me-only is just not a viable way for this completely interconnected world to continue.

At the other end of this, I hope not to have to listen to ignorance such as above (though I am not THAT optimistic but hey!)

Until then, wash your hands, avoid crowds, check on your neighbours and let’s beat this thing together

Black History Celebration

Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of attending the annual black history celebration at Etobicoke School for the Arts (https://www.esainfo.ca). Aside from celebrating our future movie producer and director Emmanuel, I went eager to see what the youth’s take on the black experience in Toronto (and the world really given their diverse backgrounds). I was not disappointed!!

Again, I must plug Emmanuel and say if you don’t know him now, you will soon because the boy has talent oozing out of his every pore and the sky is truly his only limit.

I just had a momentary brain freeze and writer’s block at attempting to explain how the show made me feel. There are a lot of talented kids, especially as ESA is one of the top Arts schools in the region or perhaps the country; that is not up to to debate. However, the presentations yesterday felt raw and vulnerable and completely devoid of the infusion of drama that one may expect from arts students.

They spoke candidly about their struggle to occupy spaces that their peers perhaps take for granted: their feeling of “otherness”, their need to control their true emotions for fear of alienating their peers, the struggles of those that identify as LGBTQI & also black to gain acceptance not only by their communities but especially outside of it. I was especially moved by a skit about a girl struggling with a decision to bleach their darker skin so as to fit in- complete with advise from beyond by Harriet Tubman (she was not depicted as much of a pacifist that woman 😊), Claudette Clovin, Betty Shabazz and Martin Luther King JR. The actors were hilarious but the issues that the young woman was struggling with were no laughing matter. One comment they made about the teasing by students about where is “X” when the lights go out reminded me of my own daughter struggling with such cruelty during her late primary school years. The skit about why black kids sit together or isolate themselves in the lunch room was very touching in it’s honesty because it did not provide a concrete answer, as there truly is none, but it explained why even black adults gravitate towards each other in work places and elsewhere- safety in numbers.

The dance performances were amazing but also filled with heart- for once I did not raise any eye-brows over shaking booties and curse words as they all seemed to serve a greater purpose than the hyper-sexualization that hip hop and other such dance forms are often relegated to.

I could write two books just giving my take on that show and justifying all the times my tears fell freely down my cheeks; but the overarching feeling that I’d be trying to express is my sadness. Sadness that these children, born and raised here (sometimes 2nd and 3rd generation) still don’t feel settled in their own home. Sadness that even at that age, and perhaps more so given social media’s influence, they have to fight to be seen as ‘equal to’, ‘worthy of’, and ‘deserving of’ whatever the good Lord Himself put them on earth to do. My 11 years old daughter was quite emotional after watching the show not because the issues that were addressed were foreign to her but because she could put a name on some of the feelings and actions she’s experienced before. She’s 11 years old- at her age I thought I was binge-reading Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High and planning to take over the world as a teenage sleuth ☹

Because I am an eternal optimist, I will chose to end this post with the positives that I took from it; primarily the underlying message demanding kindness and understanding from within and outside of their communities. These kids are confronting their reality head on and seeking and successfully finding allies who hopefully do not lose that sense of open mindedness and for lack of a better word “colour blindness” as they grow up. They spoke honestly, sometimes pointing their fingers directly at themselves over areas that they could do more to change the narrative- something that may be controversial to those who only see racism in terms of the perpetrator versus the victim and completely miss the middle ground- that of people who are just ignorant and could use a little education and nudging. There is hope yet- and for the sake of their lovely souls and humanity I pray that it comes to fruition and these kids can truly feel “Canadian” – no hyphen necessary.

What a way to celebrate Black History Month- thank you ESA (and you go Manu!!!: 😊) Grid Table 3 A

Black History Month

Do you sometimes wonder why there needs to be an entire month dedicated to the history of one racial group?

I did- during my first few years in North America; I wondered if perhaps the Civil Rights movement had asked for too much in pushing for an entire month, albeit the shortest month of the year, to be attached to black people.

You see as someone from the motherland, my history was never in doubt. Passed down orally from one generation to the next (with embellishments along the way depending on the tale spinning skills at work), we all had a rough idea of where we came from. I have drunks and medicine men on my dad’s side and great leaders and extreme polygamists on my mum’s side. My family name on my dad’s side is quite colourful, owing to a great grandfather who ran the town. My sister’s name is so specific to our family that anytime we meet someone with that name, we are more than assured they are our kin. At any given time, we could be sure of at least 3-4 generations before us (see the caveat above on the downside to oral history) but the bottom line is that it continuous with no breakages.

We didn’t study the history of slavery back in the motherland and truth be told even colonialism was presented to us in the most sanitized fashion. However, after educating myself courtesy of living in North America, I learnt that when the slaves landed in the shores of North America, which for argument’s sake we will say was in 1619 Jamestown in present day Virginia, their history was essentially erased. They were assigned the names of their owners but none of the privileges. Someone previously named Makende now became Johnson; like a river whose straight-line course was forever diverted by use of a boulder or invisible river traffic cop. The separation of families by the traders created a new mishmash of families, who were not bound by blood and sometimes not even by language.

Fast forward to 1970 in the US and 1995 in Canada when people from the African diaspora first began to reclaim or more to the point, recreate their history 351 and 376 years later respectively. Granted oral history would not have provided a very smooth account of those years, it would have been nice for them to know that their lineage had been continuous throughout that time. Colonisers did try to divide and conquer Africans on their land and my mom told us of being forced into rows of homes, set as camps to keep everyone in and track the troublemakers who were living in the forests out and easier to “hunt” down. However even in these camps, cramped together into single rooms as they were, they continued their family lives and with it their stories. My North American cousins weren’t that lucky, especially because along the way, house slaves were given to birthing their masters’ offspring, hence complicating the lineage that much more.

A month doesn’t undo this; after all even DNA studies go only so far in bridging the missing links of their history. But if done well, it allows the black diaspora some time in the year to make a deliberate effort to research and learn their collective history and whatever individual history one can trace. It’s as important to do so as it is for the First Nations who suffered similar fate, in the form of extreme colonization on their own lands.

We can’t right any of these wrongs; we can’t even re-write the history but if only once in a year, we can acknowledge that Africans were brought into these lands against their wills and had histories that may not have been perfect but existed and perhaps, just perhaps, the future generations of black disaporans (sp) can move forward with a strong sense of a valid and legitimate past. After all, we are who we were!


I hate racism

It occurred to me today, that perhaps the reason why people struggle with the existence of racism or dare I say its prevalence, it’s because no one wants to think that their opportunities or how far they’ve achieved certain goals have nothing to do with their abilities. They want to believe that their music is just that much better, their intellect is just that much higher, their “whatever” is just a notch above everyone else. Accepting the existence of racism= accepting a “lesser than” view of themselves for their lived experiences and most people can’t do that in good conscience.

What breaks my heart is that those that live under the shadow of racism have to question everything about themselves all-the-time!. It could be mundane things such as “did I really not arrange my shopping for the cashier to reach without straining their arm” or more consequential ones like ‘is my level of education just not suitable enough for the entry level position”. I’ve grown accustomed to pre-checking myself, ensuring that I leave my bad day at home or deal with it by crying in the bathroom for fear of making everyone around me uncomfortable. I rationalize for my kids, whenever they face this ugly reality and inadvertently keep pushing them to an excellence for which the greater society will never willingly accept of them. Yet, on the rare occasions that some non-racialized people, especially the deniers amongst us, face a rejection that doesn’t sit with their expectations, they raise the kinds of holly hell that causes policy changes. I admire the LGBTQI movement (or organizations depending on the settings) for their quest for “allies” as they figured out earlier on that real change can only come when straight people, who are not seen as having any personal motivation stand up for their rights- Bob Marley (RIP) should have asked us to get up, stand up for other people’s rights- not our own I suppose.

LGBTQI are people’s children, siblings, and extended family members etc so finding allies is easier- one wishes to ease the pain of their blood relatives. Racialized people tend to be related to other racialized people and where we attempt to form alliances via intermarriage (I see you Harry and Meghan!), people lose their collective minds and drive such attempts out of town- 50 years after Loving v.Virginia no less!!

At the same time, some would-be allies are putt off by fear of being seen as “culturally misappropriating’, which is really a disserve we do ourselves because imitation is the best form of flattery and by mainstreaming our “cultural’ experiences, perhaps we will appear less threatening (food for thought)

I do not enjoy talking about racism- I really wish I’d never have to utter that word in my current or future life. I am tired of thinking that somehow something that I have no control over- the tone of my melanin-determines my price of admission pretty much everywhere I go. Apparently my youngest daughter (11 years today :)) missed being born into generation Alpha (2010-2025) which is projected to be the first post-racial generation. I hope she and her siblings can reap some of the benefits of such an existence, just like I’ve enjoyed being millennial adjacent.

Until then- I will borrow Ellen’s simple but just so thoughtful phrase and ask that we be kind to each other


Neighbours- just a friendly word each morning :)

I live in a gated community of condominium townhomes in the greater Toronto area (GTA). I have to lead with that because it makes everything else I say sound important and classy 😊.

We have one entrance/exit for use by vehicles and pedestrians and a second one that can only be used by pedestrians. We pay a monthly maintenance fee to ensure that the gardens are tended to, snow is plowed, and occasional exterior repairs and upgrades are done sans cost to us. Some owners rent their units out; and since am not sure what percentage of owners primarily live here, I won’t hazard a guess. This all to say we are for all intents and purposes a physically tightly knit community.

And in almost four years of proud ownership, I hardly know any of my neighbours. There are those that wave mechanically at me when I walk by from work (what is it with North Americans and looking down on people that use transit…neigh choose to use transit- this will be a topic for another blog for sure). I met one of those wavers right outside the front wall of our development and when I tried to smile and say hello, he appeared to pick up his pace and walk faster away from me. I was a stranger to him despite the daily wave at me from the safety of his driveway-and a shared water bill.

This is in total contrast to how I grew up. We lived on a 25 hectare property back in the home country (again please be thoroughly impressed then promptly dismiss this for the fluff that it is😉). On it was our house right by the main thoroughfare, my dad’s brother and his family lived halfway through the tract of land and my grandmother and my aunt lived on the very back side. We had three squatter families that my grandfather had allowed to build and live rent free and there was also a stretch of rental units, which supposedly one of my great uncles had been given free reign by my same grandfather to build and collect rent from. The occupants of these units were engaged in all sorts of debauchery (such as alcohol consumption and late into the night dancing-the horror! ) and we were forbidden to go there on threat of death! I was saddened when that entire property burnt down in a fire, when I was perhaps 11 years old because I’d been preparing to channel my teenage angst in that forbidden zone 😊.

The properties in the entire village were similarly occupied, albeit with less squatters and larger nuclear and extended families. We identified each area by the patriarch family names and eventually public transit stops came to be identified the same way. Most pieces of land were occupied by owners, with very few cases of tenants so we “knew” most of the residents. The air quotes are deliberate because while I couldn’t tell the name of everyone that belonged to family X, there was always an identifying marker that aligned individuals with their families. Random things like darker skin tones, big round eyes, tall lanky sons, loud arrogant uncles (yes that was very family specific) and for the most part, anomalies only arose as they married outsiders and by then I was too old to care about every little child born in the neighbourhood.

Around Christmas time, there was always a rise in crimes in the form of home break-ins. I dreaded hearing the siren call of a mother or grandmother screaming for help and announcing “uuuwwwiiii….we have been found” (this doesn’t translate well into English)

My dad would grab his sword from its sheath (and no, I am not making this up) and run out, sometimes sans shirt to rescue those that had the misfortune of being discovered in their hiding places [aka homes] by the thieves that year. We would huddle in the living room, waiting for our gallant father to return with a noble announcement that said thief was caught and punished promptly (justice was meted out swiftly and I hate to say it sometimes with more brutality than warranted chicken thievery but again, I digress).

Everyone knew everyone else, down to the sound of their screams. I later learnt that the wailers had an unspoken rule to spread the word and operated a relay system of sorts. These secondary wailers were often more dramatic, perhaps on account of not being in any imminent danger themselves and a bit short on, ergo liberal with specifics. My original cry above would translate to “uuwwwiii family X has lost the chicken and goat they’d bought to entertain their relatives who’ve travelled all the way from province X. and as you are aware the father of the house was fired last month. Please come and help!!”.

 As dramatic as this was, it was also quite effective; one such time the scene of the crime was a good 10 kilometers from our house! I imagine the thieves probably hated this system. There were several cases of the stolen items found abandoned a distance from the scene of the crime, perhaps upon realization that the secondary screamer’s details were too close to the truth.

Yes, my upbringing does sound like the wild west, and yes it was as scary as it reads. Perhaps all my neigbhours here have similar stories in their upbringing but can’t bring themselves to decide if we’d be the thieves, the criers or the victims in the above scenario so choose to avoid us all together. Heck, I can’t place most of them either and have taken to wearing super dark glasses as I walk, which I find to be a good deterrent to forced eye contact.

If only there was a way to build these bridges because in the end, no matter how earnestly my dad and eventually my grown-up brothers ran out in the middle of the night, it was always the next door neighbour to the victim that really made a difference.