Title - Putting the pieces together...

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Good neighbors are like family.....
By Kevin Ann Reinhart (nee: Eby)

Kevin Ann Reinhart, mother of two, is a former teacher-librarian.

Knock knock knock. "Janie, Margie and Frannie!"

Two little girls stood expectantly at the side door of a two-storey red-bricked house just across the street from their own white bungalow. It had become habit to call out the names of the friends they wished to summon. There were 11 children within, but only three with whom the sisters played.

"Janie, Marg, Fran - you're wanted at the door."

The call went out within the house and the three joined the two little girls outside.

"Whaddaya feel like playin' today?"

"Let's go fix the sidewalk. There are some pretty big holes over by Mrs. Dopp's"

"Fixing the sidewalk" required a large rock each and several smaller pebbles. "Cement" was fashioned by pounding the smaller stones into dust and adding a bit of water obtained from the garden hose and carried to the repair site in sandbox pails requisitioned for the job. Sidewalk maintenance was taken very seriously by the group. They were hard at it when four more girls, representing three other families from "down the hill," arrived to join the maintenance crew.

Mary Pat, myself, Barbie, Audrey, Mary, Sandie, Margie and Fran all pitched in to ensure that the tiny holes in our neighborhood walks were properly filled. This was a never-ending project as the first rain would quickly dissolve our stone dust cement and carry it away in swirling rivulets.

Fixing the sidewalk was a perfect summer pastime. When all other play ideas had been discarded and the inevitable boredom of late summer set in, repairing our walkways remained a reliable time filler.

In those childhood years of the late 1950s, time was measured more by the events of the day than by the hands of a clock. Playtime was bounded by the interruptions of breakfast, lunch, dinner and bed. As we grew, home chores and school requirements also encroached upon our freedom. Through it all there were always pieces of each day, which we could call our own.

Summer also meant fort building, salamander hunts, hikes to the empty little red schoolhouse and the ever-present possibility of a call to a game of scrub baseball. Fall would find us buried in the technicolor foliage we'd rake into mounds and hide or jump or burrow within. Winter snow blanketed tobogganing runs in two separate backyard locations while ice rinks and snow forts were constantly in use or under construction. The puddles of spring and a swollen creek surging through the nearby city-owned woodlot guaranteed at least one soaker among us each day.

We reveled in the out-to-doors and returned home reluctantly when summoned with three blasts from mom's whistle: "Come in when the street lights come on."

We thought our friends' family of 11 children was large. I realize now that we all belonged to one even bigger - the neighborhood family. Much of the social life of our parents involved interaction with others on the street. Rare idle moments were filled with front porch chatter at one house or another. If supplies from milkman, bread man or corner grocer provided inadequate at meal preparation or baking times, a quick trip to the neighbor's with a note or verbal request would rectify the situation. Even the littlest among us could be successfully dispatched on these errands.

The closeness of children at play is not unusual. Adults often become acquainted because of the relationships formed between their children. As the youngsters grow, separations occur and new bonds are formed beyond the neighborhood. People move away and relationships break apart.

This natural separation did not seem to affect our neighborhood. We are all grown now with children of our own. Stories are shared with a new generation, which finds the concept of neighbor to be very different from the one we knew.

Our parents remain in the neighborhood where we were raised. After 42 years, the informal front-porch visits have evolved into a regularly scheduled "neighborhood club" gathering at a local restaurant and a subsequent social in each other's homes. News of children and grandchildren is shared. Communication is maintained.

Recently I attended the funeral of Jane, Marg and Fran's mother. The gathering was a large one. Immediate family and friends were joined by neighborhood club members and their offspring to form a huge group. Fran had kept my mother informed as her mom's condition worsened. The cancer she battled had precluded Fran's mother's attendance at the neighborhood gab sessions she so enjoyed.

So after her mom passed away, Fran crossed the street to bring the sad news of her death to my mother and, through her, to the remaining charter members of the neighborhood club.

Custom and funeral home courtesy meant I would make a visit to pay my respects and my friends would thank me for coming. A heartfelt hug, memories shared and an opportunity to visit at the post-funeral reception would better represent my reason for attendance. There was no way I could not be there. There had been, after all, a death in my family.

Kevin Ann Reinhart was born and raised in the Jackson Avenue-Fairmount Road area of Kitchener, lived in Kingston as a teacher-librarian and returned to Kitchener 10 years ago. She wrote this story as a tribute to Gertrude (Cooper) Paleczny, who died in November 1993.


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last updated 29 April 2016 

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