I loved living in Toronto. One of my favorite things about living there was the vantage point my apartment gave me. I lived in a terrific neighborhood just on the cusp of gentrifying. I had a studio apartment in a low-rise building that overlooked Lake Ontario, and at the end of my street, I could catch a street car that would take me to the subway line, and I could reach the suburbs or downtown. It was perfect for exploring neighborhoods, discovering restaurants, museums, other things that the city had to offer, and, of course, people watching.
When I had a free evening, sometimes I would take the subway to its end and catch a bus to a big suburban multiplex. Once while waiting for the bus to take me back to my apartment, a group of teenage girls gathered at the bus stop, having just seen a movie themselves. They were an incredibly diverse group of young women–a couple of them with European features, two looked Somali, one had features that reminded me of Kikuyu folks I had known in Kenya.They excitedly told one another stories, holding court one at a time but reacting and talking over one another, too. Boys who were cute, what was happening, at school, and how strict their homes were. One girl, sharing that it was difficult to convince her family that she should be allowed to come to the movie, ended her story with “You KNOW how refugee grandmas are.”
A chorus of loud “mm-hmm”s, “Oh yeah”s, and groans came from the girls.
I laughed to myself. It was such a cute moment, but an insightful one.
How this group of children in the suburbs came to know one another, came to be friends, and came to share a common understanding of what it means to be Canadian, Suburban, Teenaged, and “First, 1.5, or Second Generation” Canadian–that is more than just the stuff of anthropology. It is the stuff of fiction. It’s an image and story that I’ll tell in some other ways.
I was listening to a podcast of “Serial” today and there were several references to the dynamics of teenage children of immigrants living in the suburbs of Baltimore. Those references stirred this memory.