The Children’s Garden: Dreams Fulfilled
Saying goodbye to a place that brought the community together.
The closing year of the Children’s Garden is bittersweet. The property will be redeveloped with new housing, which is important revitalization for a neighbourhood that often has good houses torn down while empty lots and dilapidated houses sit empty or underused. For my daughter and me the garden has been a lovely and cheerful destination in the neighbourhood. For many more folks it has been a place of safety and rest.
For the past few years my daughter and I have cycled to the garden to rest and read on the tree plank bench my partner created and placed there from a large Manitoba maple that had been in our front boulevard – a lovely reuse. For me, this is a time to ponder my past experiences of McCauley, and for my daughter it is an opportunity to find herself at home here in the present. I love the creative childhood I have been able to give her to create such beauty and take care of a space that is not necessarily ours but is better because of us – a playful place that is free to everyone and not necessarily mediated or mandated by an organization or specific way to be within it.
The garden beds at 107A Avenue and 92nd Street were dreamed up in 2018 as a creative community project on an empty city lot previously owned by the parents of longtime resident Lily Mounma. Lily had recently sold Viphalay, a Thai restaurant that still thrives now as Noi, operated by Lily’s uncle, in the heart of the city at 107A Avenue and 95th Street. Back then Lily wanted another project she was passionate about: giving children opportunities they might not regularly have and creating a stronger community as a whole. She created a garden because her daughter loves gardening and because she realized that there needed to be more beauty within our neighbourhood. It became a safe place we could go to and connect with our community.
Lily wanted it to be a natural gathering space since McCauley doesn’t have a community school to which all our children go. She wanted to honour the need for a place we could go and get to know each other. She also loved the idea of gardens: how you plant a seed and it can grow within weeks, giving our children the sense of the cycle between hard work and fruition of a plan. The garden space has depended on us doing the work and showing up the best we could in the moments we had for it to grow. This is an idea that is both empowering and magical.
During this past year of Covidian times the garden became even more important as a close and safe way to gather in community and with friends. It was an activity to help regulate our weeks when many previous schedules had disappeared and we had to build new ones. It was great to be somewhere where others were going through similar feelings and to share in tasks towards a common gentle goal, which meant mostly for the mothers to garden while children played together in the green space. The painted fence boards that circle the city lot come from an art project at a previous community garden in McCauley on 95th Street and will hopefully live on in future gardening opportunities. I am looking forward to the fall harvest and the Halloween festival for more sweet community happenings.
Ruth lives in McCauley with her partner and daughter.