South Newton

The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.

By: Jane Kovich

Nine years ago I was fresh off a divorce with two preschool age children and could no longer afford to live in my lifelong home of the Vancouver neighbourhood of Kerrisdale. For many weekends I drove through the cities and neighbourhoods that make up Metro Vancouver, searching for a place to call home to raise my family.

I had a flyer for a new housing development in an area I had never heard of before, a neighbourhood called Sullivan Station in South Newton. The flyer was left discarded in the back of my car, but one day I smoothed out its bent corners and set my GPS for the environs of Sullivan.

I headed out on Highway 99 leaving the hustle and bustle of Vancouver behind me. I turned off on Highway 10, which hardly seemed a highway at all because at the turnoff it was only two lanes wide and cut through farmland. A charming country church greeted me on the right side of the road, and on the other side was a community hall surrounded by farmlands. As I made my way down the highway the green farmlands turned into fields of white. They had been overtaken by visiting snow geese. As they peacefully fed after their winter migration, a bald eagle soared overhead. The telephone poles that lined the highway were dotted with hawks. I wasn’t in Vancouver anymore.

I soon drove into Sullivan itself and it was everything I ever wanted in a neighbourhood. It was an area of new construction that had been planned like a village, with all the amenities within easy walking distance. The new townhome I had driven out to see was down the hill from the new Cambridge Elementary School. Tall fir trees bordered the school and were omnipresent throughout the surrounding neighbourhood. The realtor at the townhouse development drove me around and showed me all the neighbourhood parks and the YMCA where my children could take swimming lessons.

As we drove past the school a pair of peacocks crossed the street, their beautiful blue feathers vivid in the sunlight. I turned to look at the realtor with a stunned look on my face. “They live here,” she explained, “there used to be a peacock farm in the area. There is a whole flock of them.” I opened my purse and wrote her a cheque for a deposit on a townhouse. I had found my home.
I brought the children out to see the place where we would live. We arrived at the show home for the townhouse complex that would become our home and the children couldn’t contain their delight. They ran from room to room with excitement. Outside we saw scores of children playing in the yards or on the sidewalk or in the alleyways. Young children were so dominant a force that we dubbed the area “Kidville.” Little voices and the sound of play have continued to be the music of the neighbourhood over the years.

We took a walk up the hill to my daughter’s new school. Along the way we saw blue jays and robins, birds I hadn’t seen in Vancouver since I was a young child. A brindle-coloured rabbit hopped alongside our path. I had never seen a rabbit in the wild before and it turned out wild rabbits are all over South Newton. This spring we had a family of rabbits living in our backyard. We had the pleasure of seeing the tiny baby bunnies venture out of their burrow and eventually hop under our fence to a new life of adventure.

The children settled happily in their new neighbourhood filled with children, parks, soaring trees, wild rabbits and birds big and small. They were in a safe place where people say hi to you as you walk down the street and neighbours look out for each other. They were in a place that welcomed them and that we could all call home.

I met a woman a few years ago who grew up in this area when it was mostly farms. She had many stories about the warmth of the community here that I wish I had written down. One story I remember is about a man who had lost his home in a fire. The community got together and built him a new home. That yellow house still stands on the edge of a commercial area in our neighbourhood, a lone testament to a bygone era.

I think that a place can hold some of the memory and intentions of past inhabitants and that is what we think of as ghosts. If that is the case, South Newton has the memory of community that is being realized in today’s inhabitants. Someday this place will form part of the memory of my children’s childhood. Wild rabbits and wandering peacocks will be their touchstones. All the sheltering warmth and the sense of community we have found here will live on in them. That is South Newton.

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