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Seeing Valerie and Mark again

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When you move away from Elmwood, you don’t expect to see your neighbours coming, too. But that is what happened to me, only this happened more than 40 years later. Let me explain.

Our neighbours on Johnson Avenue were fine people. We got along well with the parents and the children on both sides of our house. Yes, we lived very close together, and our children played with the neighbours’ children. We had a lovely hill off the back lane which was always populated with kids playing, and "desperately" playing when it got close to the end of summer holidays.

When Martin Luther King was killed so tragically, we were made aware of death so deeply, especially when the father in one our neighbour’s families died the same year.

Our four-year-old had received a jigsaw puzzle as a birthday gift in April, about the time that King died. Our neighbour’s son had given our boy this puzzle, which he and his dad promptly put together with the exception of one piece that we couldn’t find anywhere. They went for a drive and when they came back the piece was in its place! No one had been there that we knew of, as the rest of us had also gone out.

We still don’t know what happened.

The other month I was walking along the Chief Peguis Greenway when I met Valerie C., the sister of the boy who had long ago given our son the jigsaw puzzle. She, of course, was no longer the teenager who helped to watch over the children in her family.

What a surprise. Here she was grown up, working; in fact, she has an excellent job, looking after a lovely group of daycare children.

I could not imagine where all the years had gone. It had been about 40 years since I last saw Valerie.

Then I saw Mark S, on another day, our neighbour from the other side of our old house on Johnson, now walking along the same Chief Peguis Greenway. He was looking after a lovely parakeet. It sat demurely on his shoulder while they enjoyed the walk on one of the few sunny days we’ve had in Manitoba this summer.

It reminded me of the parakeets we had met in Paraguay. One of these had learned to say, "Keena Toos!" ("No one is at home", in Plautdietsch) when company knocked. Another parrot had learned to imitate all the different farm animals, causing visitors to look around, in vain, for a cow, a dog, a cat, a chicken, turkey gobbler, etc!

But coming back to Mark and Valerie — I was flabbergasted!

Here it is, decades later and I meet the neighbour children from both sides, here on the Chief Peguis Trail.   

Bertha Klassen is a community correspondent for Elmwood.

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