And as Ron was generous with Brent, so, too, was their family generous with us.
When Ron and Mary had a barbecue, my parents were invited. When Ron and Brent watched “Revenge of the Ninja,” I joined them, too. When Brent’s family had dinner, I was welcomed to stay — gushing to my mother after one meal that I had just eaten the “best food ever made” — only for Mary to explain to my mother that the “dish” she had served was a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with slices of boiled hot dogs, confirming forever I was a child with great taste.
Over and over, Brent and his family were warm, neighborly and genuine. And that mattered. Especially for us, a family of immigrants settling into our first home and hoping for the best.
The houses around us in our suburb of Halifax were small, single-story bungalows filled with young couples and single parents who couldn’t afford a house in Cavalier, the “nice” part of Lower Sackville. To Ron and Mary’s right was Joyce, a foster mother whose husband worked in security. To our left was Maureen, a single mother who worked in an office. Across the street was Shelley, an office worker at the hospital, and Brian, a government employee who looked forward to snow days because he got paid time and a half to plow trails and paths.
But the one characteristic all of our neighbors shared, without exception, was skin color. White. Different shades, sure — some pale, some paler — but the overwhelming impression was that of uniformity.
And we three, my parents and I, were the exception. The ones who stood out. The ones everyone knew, even if we hadn’t previously met.
There was a reason, for example, that stranger — the old man who found me when I crashed my bike — was able to so quickly determine which house I belonged to. There was no uncertainty.