The Joy of Community
Christine Thomas reflects on the journey from city to country and the wonderful people met along the way.
This idyllic countryside is full of warm and loving people who are happy to live a peaceful, quiet and unpretentious life. Just like the brochures said!
I knew we had hit the jackpot by moving here after the first three weeks. We were visited by at least 20 families along the town line road. They just “popped in” to introduce themselves, their kids, their pets and welcome us to the community. Eleven years later, I’m still sidelined by the constant community group hug we get every week.
I lived in Toronto for my entire life. I knew a small circle of people: a few families and maybe a dozen fairly close friends. I banked at the CIBC, in the local plaza. I knew all their faces but not one name; nor did they know mine. They saw me too, sometimes three times per week. And yet, when we went to the bank to get a mortgage for our move to the country, we were flatly turned down. Loyalty? Accountability? Where!
Within weeks of moving here, I was being greeted with big smiles by perfect strangers and asked how the move was coming along. I’m thinking to myself, how did they know?
When we took the dog to puppy school (spoiler alert: it isn’t really for the puppies; it’s for the owners!) my husband and I would spell each other off every week and meet at the Loretto Tavern to discuss the day’s events and how dysfunctional our pup was. (Spoiler alert #2: the discussion was more often than not about our human dysfunction!)
The same year we moved here, the local “Liners,” as the long-time occupants of our road have been dubbed, organized a Town Line Picnic to introduce the newcomers and re-introduce the old-timers. It was stupendous! We just celebrated our eleventh year here, the picnic continues, and the list of attendees grows every year!
One of our neighbours we had met once or twice had a barn fire several years ago. With a sense of “oh my gosh” rattling through our bodies, we rushed to the scene to see what assistance we could provide.
The first thing I saw: three community fire departments working hand in hand. Neighbours pitched in. We all worked tirelessly till the wee hours to ensure the homeowner was safe, the animals safe and what could be saved in the barn was saved.
Without being asked we showed up at their doorstep for months after to help sift through the rubble and start rebuilding.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not patting myself on the back here. I was as stunned to discover how strong my and others’ sense of duty was. This part of my personality had not been much called upon living in the city. (You know, it’s that place where people keep their heads down, walk fast, avoid eye contact and rarely smile. Don’t even get me going about the TTC!)
Then there’s the Hockley General Store which has been re-invented into this wonderful meeting place of “locals” and transients alike.
Barely three weeks after moving here, the owner’s son brought us our order without even asking. He remembered; he paid attention. I thought: I love this place!
The Store offers free Wi-Fi internet access for those of us who are still on dial-up. (Yes, dial-up! It is still out there and I am living proof that people can live with it, dead or alive!)
If you’re not surfing the net, you can eat a fabulous meal created by Jack and served by Jackie. My dog gets water and the occasional bickie. I get caught up on the local news and now that, oh heaven, I’m more or less a “local” I get to meet the newest additions to the village and welcome them!
The Store has been a place where I have come to meet some really really interesting people that I never would have met in a million years! It’s networking heaven on many levels! And it’s a sensory pleasure, too. When Jack is busy cooking something yummy and scrumptious the aromas often bring back memories from eons ago!
I have realized that the wonderful thing about living up here is that everyone’s veneer is missing. You see the guy or gal who puts his or her pants on the same as you each and every day without the business card or name tag greeting you first.
Regardless of how you look, even on days when you’re feeling sleepy-eyed or cursed with “bed head” hair, we greet each other with a sense of equality!
I’ve never minded being a nobody amongst the somebodies of the world, but up here everyone is a somebody and people care!
You soon realize this idyllic countryside is full of warm and loving people who are happy to live a peaceful, quiet and unpretentious life….just like the brochures said!
A chef, caterer, dog walker and novelist in training, Christine Thomas also claims mastery of forklifts, composting, car racing and Italian regional cuisine. Christine lives in Mono with her husband, dog and three cats.