Sunday, November 06, 2016
To explain my fondness for the neighbourhood stretches back to 1986, when my yuppie parents decided to move out of the downtown core and into a tiny inner-city house. I was four at the time, and all of my other downtown preschool friends were being shipped out the the 'burbs in droves. I distinctly remember thinking that everyone I knew must be rich, because I was the only one I knew who didn't have a second floor on their house, and didn't live in over 800 square feet. As a matter of fact, for the longest time, my sister and I were the only kids for about five blocks in any direction. This worked in our favor greatly at Halloween, but we paid dearly by being the weird, isolated sisters when my mom would drive us over the the next community for play dates.
"Oh! You live in Renfrew!", people would say when we would explain where we lived, but don't ever lump a Regal Terrace-er into Renfrew, or Crescent Heights, or Winston Heights, or Bridgeland- we are our own community. I grew up with great pride in my area, and man, did I ever have a good childhood there.
Like all children of the 80's, we played by 80's kid rules like everyone else: come home when the streetlights come on. There was a park down the street, and for many years, this was our park. If other kids were playing there, we knew they weren't from around there, and we were quick to establish our dominance above them. If I wanted on the slide, and you were on the slide, you were going to have to move, stranger-kid. The pool, ball-diamond, and tennis courts down the street were basically the same.
Inner city living came with it's challenges, too. Every year we would have to get fresh bikes from the police auction, because every single winter, someone would break into the shed and ride away with a bitchin' Barbie two-wheeler with training wheels firmly in place. We had rules in our house about which neighbours we were allowed to speak with, as there was a legit crack den directly beside our house (it's still there and functioning, as far as I am aware). We weren't allowed to cross Edmonton Trail or 16th Ave by ourselves until we were over 10, despite the fact that it was "friend mecca" in both directions, because "if you fight with a car, who do you think is going to win?".
I often tell people that I grew up in the weirdest, quietest part of the inner-city. Despite the fact that two of Calgary's busiest roads intersected about a block from where the house sat, there were times that the neighbourhood seemed to be failing. We couldn't support the Mac's and doughnut shop at the end of the street, and a whole plaza spent years empty and dilapidated. The city ignored the green spaces that dotted every corner. When I told kids where I lived, they would wrinkle their nose. For a while, it was a "bad neighbourhood", but things were about to change.
I was about 14 when gentrification started to happen. All of a sudden, it was obvious why they had built the ball diamond and the parks- they were anticipating the older folks passing on. Young families started filling up blocks. I capitalized on this by starting up a babysitting service, and there were weeks where I was pulling in a respectable adult paycheque by going to people's houses after school, keeping a rough eye on their kids, and sneakily raiding their refrigerator. Everyone thought my family was rich in high school, but really, it was the neighbourhood that made me independently wealthy.
There's something comforting for many of us about returning to our childhood home. After I left home at the age of 17 to move to France for a year (again, thank you, babysitting), there was nothing more soothing to me than stepping off the plane, and falling asleep on the couch back in the little house on 14th Ave. My mom sold the house in 2000. It was tough to see it go. We had built so many memories there- a full life at that time, in fact. When I started looking for a place recently, something drew me back in that direction.
So, December 1st I move to an amazing bungalow at the end of the block I grew up on. Yes, there's a yard. Yes, it's old and quirky. I am ready to build the next chapter of my life, and I couldn't be more excited. Get ready, Regal Terrace. That slide is still mine.
Posted by ~sarah p. at 10:46 AM