Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Viateur Valentine

In February, the light changes. The neglected geranium on top of my bookshelf notices, and buds.


The florist puts rose petals out in the snow. They freeze into bright eggshell-thin cups. Later I'll find soggy wads of them in my coat, as if I tried to pocket a snowball.

But for now, we scoop them up by the cold handful, valentine petals on the white sidewalk, something right out of Snow White.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Doorstep clothing swap

The bulging bags appear on my doorknob with no note. The contents are like gifts from a very practical Santa.

Snowsuits, snow pants, boots, fleeces, all in exactly the right size! As the world's worst shopper, I'm dizzy with gratitude.

And the elves behind this useful stuff?

The moms on the block who keep track of my child's dimensions in relation to their own. "She must be 3T by now," they calculate and presto: we've got turtlenecks, flannel pajamas, coats and pants.

"From who?" Amelia now asks when she puts something on—because everything comes from someone! Dee-Dee, Lucie, Stella, Esme, Jesse, Dylan, Adam, Ella...

People I barely know have given us things by the bagful. Just living on the same street makes us eligible to win the jackpot.

If getting a bicycle stolen from in front of the house (2 bikes gone this winter so far) fills me with disappointment, the stream of neighbourhood hand-me-downs restores hope.

The givers of stuff just say: "We're happy to get rid of it. There's nowhere to keep it!"

A neighbour dad echoes this sentiment, waving to include the houses up and down the street. "This is my storage," he says.

It's true. The minute the clothes get too snug or the toys too babyish, I'm aggressively generous; on the lookout for some smaller, younger recipient, saying, "Here! Want these? Take them. Now!"

I leave bags on people's doorknobs with no note. It's like getting rid of surplus giant zucchini,  but perhaps more appreciated on the receiving end.

So far, I've only heard about the bedbug epidemic in the media. However, our street was mentioned (ominously) by name in La Presse in connection with the infestations. If this stops people from accepting hand-me-downs, the whole perfect system will unravel.

Looking at the size of the shallow closets in our apartment (covered with strange and ancient wallpaper) reminds me that people must have had less stuff 100 years ago.

We need more now! Everyone around here seems to be building—adding onto the back of row houses, or onto the top, or digging out the basement. It's like magic, conjuring up space where there was none.

But when that's not an option, depend on your neighbours' space. The up-side of small. Pass it on.