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I was born here, as was my mother, and her mother before her. So it is fitting that my love for my city was born through hours of walking my neighbourhood, wearing my newborn daughter whilst pushing my toddler daughter in her stroller. My maternity leave has given me the luxury of time with my little ones to discover this place we call home.
Winter was unusually cold this year, but I set forth almost daily from our post-war bungalow nestled in the heart of Sunset. Our initial route was determined by my energy levels: uphill, downhill, or as close to flat as we could find in our hilly streets. From there, postpartum hormones would decide whether we would feast on the delicious offerings at Breka, or quietly contemplate life while strolling the manicured rows at Mountain View.
Neighbours who I had not met before stopped me in the streets, remarking that they had watched my eldest daughter grow by observing her in her favourite perch atop our couch in our front window. I was touched by their careful attention, realizing that I was part of a greater community. They admired the new baby, and invariably reminded me to enjoy them while they were young, because time goes so quickly.
And how quickly my maternity leave has gone! The crisp winter skies gave way to a beautiful spring, and as the baby slept, my toddler and I strolled past the emerging gardens in the streets surrounding us. At the same time as the earth was awakening, my daughter emerged from babyhood and became a person unto herself. Her vocabulary exploded as we discussed the names of plants, the colours of leaves and the smells of flowers. She was torn between the plum blossoms and cherry blossoms, not wanting to pick a favourite pink when both were equally beautiful in her eyes.
Our conversations were not limited to plant matter. The local wildlife was often a topic of discussion. I frequently found her yelling from her couch-top perch at the crows that had the audacity to rip up our lawn in search of delicious chafer beetle grubs, much to her daddy’s dismay. Every morning, between slurps from her cereal bowl, she would talk to the birds visiting the last of the seed we had put out for them, naming each species with amazing precision. And let us not forget the snails. My girl, who is mad about pink and dresses and lip balm and nail polish, is also crazy for the snails who meander through our front garden. She can often be seen on our front stoop, arranging her snails into tidy rows, sorted by size and colour.
I have gained a new appreciation for that snail-filled stoop over the past seven months. The view from our stoop has surprised me, because despite our street being packed with vehicles, our sidewalks are teeming with people going to and fro under their own power. We exchange nods with the numerous elderly gentlemen who faithfully walk our street multiple times a day in their dedication to continuing health, paying little heed to Vancouver’s notorious rain. From our stoop, we call out our hellos to the gangs of women who congregate on the street corners before setting out in their power-walking groups. Located on the North Arm Trail, we watch the avid commuter cyclists whizzing along our street. Finally, our alleyway becomes a highway before and after school hours at Trudeau Elementary, as children go to and from school by bike, foot, skateboard and scooter.
Sunset Community Centre is a comfortable ten minute stroll from our home, and with the beautiful summer weather upon us, the children and I can walk up there twice a week while my husband attends the boot-camp fitness class on offer. My eldest daughter clambers over the preschool playground, getting to know its ins and outs before joining her preschool class there in the fall. The baby, now over 6 months old, sits in my lap and watches the whirlwind of activity, occasionally crowing with delight as her sister clowns it up. I squeeze the baby tight, and watch my eldest like a hawk, because I know that my maternity leave is more than halfway over, and the luxury of my time with them is fleeting.
As fourth generation Vancouverites, in a city made better by its rich mixture of immigrants, my daughters are something of a rare breed. I want my daughters to love this city as much as I do. I want them to feel a need to live here like I do. I want to walk these same streets with my daughters’ daughters, just like my mother has walked with mine.