Creating a new home

Submitted by Derek Alton on July 31, 2013 - 11:20pm
Moving to a new neighbourhood in Guelph

This past week I went through an experience that almost all of us go through at least once in our life time, and many of us go through several times.  I moved into a new neighbourhood.  Moving is a significant ordeal, you always discover that you have way more stuff then you imagined.  In my case I was fortunate enough to have family and friends graciously offer their time to help me move.  I think this is how it should be.  Growing up moving was a big community event.  There was always food and plenty of helping hands.  Yet, so often I hear these days of people hiring moving companies to help them move.


After the move you find yourself in a new place and it feels so strange: the house is full of boxes and the space is not yet your own.  It will be with time, but not yet.  You are also in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, the houses are new and you can feel really isolated and alone.  For many of us, this is how it stays.  Most people do not know who their neighbours are even after many years of living in the same area.


I did not want this to happen to me.  Partly because my work involves community building, but also simply put, I didn't want just my house to feel like home, but also my neighbourhood.  I wanted to know all the people I was surrounded by.  Simply by knowing who they are makes you feel safer and more comfortable.

The day we moved it turned out that there was also a group of students moving in across the road.  That evening we found them all sitting out on their porch exhausted like us with their move, so we joined them.  They were a very welcoming bunch and we spent some time getting to know each other.  By the end of the evening we had made a bunch of new friends and a BBQ (it turns out they had an extra).


Later that night we decided we wanted to celebrate a successful move with a nice glass of wine.  Unfortunately we had no idea where a corkscrew was in the pile of boxes.  So I decided to wander over to our new friends and see if they had a corkscrew available in exchange for some of our wine.  As I was leaving the house, I saw that our next door neighbours were in their backyard, so I wandered over, introduced myself and asked if I could borrow a corkscrew.  They were very friendly and went and got one for me to borrow.  We ended up sitting in their back yard for thirty minutes.  One of the members of this couple is a professor at the University and it turns out we know a lot of the same people.  Small world.


The next morning as I was sitting on the porch eating breakfast and soaking in the sun, I noticed a group of kids run by.  "Oh, good! There are kids in this neighbourhood," I thought to myself.  I was startled when they stopped at the end of my drive way.  Soon they were joined by more kids, all chattering away.  "This is odd," I thought, as the group grew to about seven kids, "I better go investigate."  As I got close to the group, two of the parents walked up.  I learned from them that this is a school bus stop.  Good to know.


The next morning, when the kids came for the bus I brought my baseball glove out and tossed a ball around with a few of the kids as they waited for the bus.  What a fun way to start my day.  In the evenings while a group of us sat on the porch, we noticed with great interest the large amount of foot traffic in front of our place.  In particular we notice how many people have dogs.  In fact, two days into the move, I have already met three of the families that live on the street simply by stopping and talking with them as they are out walking their dog.


On Saturday, after picking up some food from the farmers market, I decided it was time to really get to know the neighbours.  There are a lot of kids in the neighbourhood who I already had the chance to meet from the bus stop in front of my house.  What better way to get to know them and to meet more of the people in the neighbourhood then through playing? So I decided to organize a good old fashioned game of ball hockey.  I spent Saturday going door-to-door, introducing myself and trying to gather support for tomorrow’s road hockey game.   I must admit, many of the people opened their door with some confusion and skepticism though they warmed up quickly when they heard that I was from the neighbourhood and simply wanted to say "hi".  I learned that there are several intrepid gardeners on the street.  A couple shared with me gardening secrets, and I found my hands filled with pots and seeds to help me get my garden started.  Everyone has a story and most are happy to share them.  I met a man who works as a mechanic, another who is a retired teacher, a third who used to be a nurse.  I discovered that there are currently four young families who live on the street and another four people who are retired (or very close to it).  I met a 91-year-old woman who has spent all but one of those years living on this street.  “I was born in that old brick house over there,” she mentioned to me.  Though I am meeting many of the neighbours, many are not interested in the hockey, though they do mention that there are a group of youngins who live around the corner who play regularly.  As Saturday afternoon arrives I am unsure of who will turn up to this hockey game.  To my surprise and great joy, we manage to get a game of eight people from the neighbourhood ranging in age from 12-30.  We played for a solid two hours in the sun leading to a great amount of joy and sun burns. 


As I sit on the porch with my new found neighbours and friends, savouring our team's victory, I reflect back on the last couple days.  I have only been living on this street for five days, and yet it already feels like home.  I know I am surrounded by a bunch of caring people.  I know who I can turn to if I need a corkscrew, or what houses to knock on to play a good game of road hockey.  What more could anyone wish for.  Five days in and I am already home.   


pickup hockey

Hey Derek, I really think the idea of just going up and down the street organizing a completely impromptu pickup hockey game was absolutely brilliant. Simple, efffective. If only I knew which end of a hockey stick you're supposed to hold I'd do the same thing myself!


Glad it feels like home- so soon!

Hi Derek,

Thanks for sharing in your journey of creating a new home in a new neighborhood. It will be neat to see what emerges as you continue to build relationship with your neighbours over time!