Dec 1, 2001 | Marmot, Winter 2001

Guest Column by Gina Rozon

The FOR SALE sign on my neighbour’s lawn is incomplete. Sure, it gives the name of the realtor, as if just anyone can call her and arrange to buy the thing. That sign should say, “Apply next door.”

According to the real estate agent, anybody who can write a big enough cheque is allowed to buy the house. She doesn’t understand that there are certain criteria for moving into that house. Prerequisites.

I grew up in a neighbourhood where the only people who moved were the Klemencics. They moved all the time. First, they moved all the way from across the alley to next door. When the Klemencic family grew too large for the house next door, they bought the house across the street. Their eldest son kept the house they’d just moved out of. Oh, and the old man who lived in the house they bought? He moved in with his son, Stan.

It was that kind of neighbourhood. Everybody knew everybody. Stan and Bea were the neighbourhood grandparents. They would give me chocolate and let me play with their dogs. Occasionally I would even visit Stan’s dad, the old man who was living in their basement. Every kid on the block knew they could climb the cherry trees at the Stanley house. I ran away from home when I was five years old.

I went straight across the alley to the Lee’s house and sat on their back step until 2 a.m. Then my bag of food ran out and Mrs. Lee sent me home.

When I grew up, I married a man who moved me all over the country. I was never able to really get to know my neighbours because we moved so often.

When we came to La Ronge, I decided it was time to put down roots. I wanted my kids to have a taste of what I had: growing up in one place, growing up with their friends. I wanted to live in that kind of neighbourhood I was thrilled to discover that the lady next door was the kind of woman who builds that kind of neighbourhood. You know the type. They seem to know who everyone is? My neighbour shared the vegetables in her garden when all I grew was weeds. She arranged neighbourhood Thanksgiving dinners. She’s borrowed eggs, leant sugar, traded recipes and shared cakes. She even gave my writing dreams a boost to new levels. She introduced me to the local writing group, and then to CBC Radio.

We’ve shared. Laughter. Tears. Hugs. Our children drift between the back yards, share books, play games, and show up as the extra children at meal times. They grew memories alongside us.
My friend and neighbour isn’t like the Klemencics. She isn’t moving across the street. She’s moving across the country. So, you can understand why I’m a little fussy about who they sell that house to. I had the neighbourhood I wanted because of her. Not just anybody can buy that house. Apply next door.

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