heart of gold

December 22, 2023

There are five people living in our home, and three more if you count our neighbour, Angelo and his niece and nephew, Nicole and Carlos. Our walls are so thin that we may as well share a home. Sometimes, I hear Ange’s radio and I wince thinking about all the wailing, roaring, singing, dancing, bashing, squealing he must hear from us. A few years ago, Nicole knocked on the wall at 7 a.m. to signal to the kids to stop making so much noise. That’s the one and only complaint we’ve ever had. “I’ll take the noise over silence any day,” he used to say to me after his Mum died. Christina was a woman of few words. Tough as nails. An immigrant. A widow. She wore a teal blue coat in the winter and loved pro-wrestling. Whenever the kids and I got locked out of the house we’d go next door to watch guys pummel one another in her front room. Ange would give them Coca Cola, or some other fizzy beverage they’d never be allowed to drink at home. They’d bring out the family albums —Ange in a tux at his brother Alvaro’s wedding — and share immigrant stories reminiscent of the ones we’d hear from Jason’s grandparents. I remember coming home one day a few years after Christina died to find four large garbage bags on the porch, her teal coat peeking through one of them. Shortly after that, Alvaro’s grown kids came to live with Angelo and life was restored to his side of the house. He was born in this house –– Ange is almost 70 –– “and they’ll take me out in a coffin.” He went to all our local schools, and ran around our lanes at night like our kids do today. Some nights, he and his pals would get as far the Philosopher’s Walk, lift up the grates, climb into the sewers and make their way into the Royal Ontario Museum. Angelo never married. He worked in a printing factory. He’s one of my favourite people on earth. When we renovated our house, a massive headache for Ange, his response was, “you have to break some eggs to make an omelette. I’d take yous guys over anyone else.” We bring him Ferrero Rocher’s at Christmas and a pizza on his Birthday. I’d like to think he knows how much we love him. He knows our rhythms, and we know his. He was there when we moved in. When we brought our first baby home. The terrible nights. The joyful mornings. To Ange, I feel a forever debt of thanks. I sat in his kitchen today catching up on Coronation Street. He’s the only person I know who still watches it. He smelled, as he always does of soap, coffee and cigarettes. And I thought to myself, of all of the houses, of all the streets, we landed here, next to you.

1 comment

  • Kerry

    Oh, I love this. And it made me think about the family we’ve shared a wall with for the past 15 years, who’ve been then through everything. (Glad to share a neighbourhood with you too!)

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