Thursday, April 24, 2008

I got flack for moving from Ottawa to a rural town across the river in Quebec, and even more when I moved to Nova Scotia

This was filmed *right outside my house* in Ottawa.

Cumberland Street. I'm not exaggerating, I am staring at my house right this moment in a scene with police questioning a high 16 yr old and her pimping 40 year old "boyfriend"

I'm so glad I decided to give my kids a small town upbringing! I wanted to the entire time we lived there.

Watching this, I'm reminded of how frustrated I was at the attitude that somehow my children's lives would be *impoverished* by living in a small town over a big city!

What benefits are there to living in a big city when you are poor or lower middle class? Public transportation, density of services, anything else?

I decided to take a cab to the school last night for Nature Girl's concert and it cost me 8 dollars return. It took us less than 10 minutes to get there and then the same back including wait times after we called. We do have bus service here but it's on the hour and I wasn't into waiting. I checked OC Transpo fares. The same trip would have cost me 9.00 - I adult, one child 6-11 and two children under 6.

I have all the regular, and alternative medical services (and choice in providers) I could want within walking distance of my house. If we needed emergency care or hospitalization we'd have to go a little further, but it would be the same distance as someone travelling from the east or west end of Ottawa into a central hospital in Ottawa, and with closures people in Ottawa need to do that.

What are the benefits???

I mean, when Nature Girl runs in breathless and says "GUESS WHAT I SAW ON MY WAY HOME!!!???" I ask a genuinely excited but non fearful "WHAT?" and the answer is ALWAYS something like "over 139 worms, that's as high as I can count!"

In Ottawa it could easily be a huge blood slick and police tape( it took a week for the rain to wash it all away), a hooker flashing her wares (more than once), needles and used condoms thrown in our yard were always a concern but not as scary as some of the people we were exposed to daily.

I feel, elitist saying that. We weren't yuppies looking to "revitalize" a working class neighbourhood and dismayed at the problems the inner city had because it affected our investment. We lived there because we were the working poor and what we saw around us was a formerly nice working class neighbourhood braced against the incredible problems that poverty brought with it - slum landlords, crack houses, prostitution, drugs, weapons, an increase in crime. The shelter around the corner from us had the hardest hit clientele in the city - people who clearly were dealing with absolutely dehabilitating mental illnesses. We actually talked to and knew the names of the ones who were gentle - I've always felt that when you live around homeless people you need to treat them as the *neighbours* they are. There were others - homeless or not, who were downright scary in an impenetrable alien way.

The reality of our day to day life in a small town is that when my kids face homelessness in our community, its a community that actually knows that family, and because it is so visible, because it is so ... manageable ...the community does something to help. Its the same with mental illness. Its the same with addiction issues. It isn't that small towns are above or insulated from the ills of the world. You just deal with them in manageable human scale packages - individuals. In the big city its so much bigger than you you can't help but try to insulate your family from it, and when being poor doesn't leave you the freedom to do that, you barricade your family away behind closed doors to escape it.

This is what I was thinking about as Nature Girl got ready for school, dressed in her pyjamas, and with pockets full of change to donate.. Today is a fundraiser for a family that lost everything in an apartment fire. They didn't have any insurance. I know the names of these people, Nature Girl and their kids travel the same walking path to school. She isn't blind to their hardships.

1 comment:

Lily Boot said...

wow! that's a very moving and thought provoking post. The issue of moving from the city to a town that is more peaceful, friendly, accessible, and more opportunities for a lovely life as opposed to a life full of noise, traffic, shops shops shops shops, with less people who are frantically and aggressively trying to claim their space be it in a car park, or on a street, or on their block, is one that I daydream about everyday - but always hear the same response as you - what would you DO, what your child DO, how would they grow up to have opportunities! At the moment all I have are my daydreams, but I really enjoyed reading your post - one day. btw - I'm also impressed with the buy nothing month - April's almost over - maybe I'll have the strength (I know that sounds feeble but buying is such a habit!) to make May our buy nothing month. We could sure do with it! Glad to have found your blog! :-)