The fall is when the students come back to Sandy Hill. The streets are full of their positive energy, as they move into residences and apartments and go to their first classes. The world seems lighter and full of more possibilities when the students return.
I credit the positive, open and warm attitude of students with ensuring that my son went to university. He spent his whole life surrounded by university students. Every year he watched their lives unfold, and was often wrapped in their embrace, as a few examples below illustrate.
The students made Halloween so special for him and all the other children who trick-or-treat in Sandy Hill. It’s the first time the students have hosted Halloween on their own and they are generous with their enthusiasm and their treats. When my son was about eight, he and I made him a Luigi (from the Mario brothers video game) costume which neither my friends nor I were very interested in, let alone excited about. The students, on the other hand, thought it was the best costume ever, and at many of the doors, they took turns taking photos of themselves with him. My son was thrilled to have their recognition of his ideas and creativity.
Somehow he figured out about busking and starting busking in front of our house when he was three. When he was about six, he kept bugging me for more allowance money and I suggested he busk. He told me in no uncertain terms that, as it was spring time and the students had no money, it was not worth busking. He said it was only worth busking in the fall when the students had money. I noticed he often had students throw $5 bills into his open fiddle case.
The male music students who lived next door invited my son in to their living room to jam when he was just three. And they really jammed together; the tall university students and my tiny son! My son stood up so tall and proud when they said to him, “You are not a kid, you are a musician.”
We also went to events at the university.
KAOS, the musician, gave a lecture and my son was thrilled to put up his hand and ask a question just like the university students. And when it was time to get KAOS’s autograph, the students stepped aside and let my son go first.
We went to see George Strombolopolis, who at the time did the news for Much Music. George looked into the audience and told my son he was too young to be there. I was sitting beside him and said I didn’t think he was and we stayed. After the lecture, my son went up to the front and talked to George, and was invited by George to attend a taping of his show in Toronto.
The students never told my son he was too young. They just embraced him, accepted him and included him as an equal. So off he went to university as a duck to water. He had known no other life. Wasn’t this what every high school graduate did?
A relaxed atmosphere reigned at the Sandy Hill community BBQ on September 21, when hotdogs, hamburgers and hospitality lured newly-returned students to the neighbourhood park. Connections formed at these events can make a big difference to neighbourhood attitudes and cooperation. Thanks to ASH for continuing the tradition! Photos Bob Forbes