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  • Writer's picturePat Browne

Meet Don, Cheryl and their daughters Chloe and Emily

It was February 16th, in the middle of the second covid shut down, when an ambulance made its way into our neighbourhood.

It wasn't for a covid call, but for something even more life threatening. Don didn’t know it, but somehow, he had picked up a severe case of C. Difficile Colitis. By the time he presented to hospital, his life was in the balance. It would be almost two full months before he would be well enough to come home. During the process he had emergency surgery, spent two weeks in ICU, lost weight, had to learn to walk again in a rehab hospital and is still in the process of rebuilding his strength just in time for the last surgery which is scheduled for the end of summer.

“This amazing neighbourhood came together for us,” said Cheryl. “It was the middle of winter when Don got sick. I was trying to hold the family together. We could only visit Don through video chats. The girls were trying to be brave.”

“It’s a happy ending, Don is home and gaining his health, but I don’t know what I would have done without our neighbours. They shovelled the driveway, brought over food, people stopped over to find out how Don was and to find out what we needed. Even people we didn’t know would come by to find out what they could do to help.”

The story started out differently; this is a story of growing up in North Toronto. Cheryl grew up in Forest Hill, splitting her time between the city and her family’s cottage in Muskoka. Don is from Port Hope and had no interest in moving to the big city of Toronto. By the time they met, Cheryl had an apartment at Yonge and Rosedale. Don was inching his way into the city. They met when Don visited a school friend who was living in the same building as Cheryl. “I remember thinking when we met that he was pretty cute,” said Cheryl. “I told his friend, but even that incentive was not enough to entice Don back into the city in a timely manner.”

In fact, it would be several months later before Don ventured back to the big city. “And when he came back, he drank too much and then passed out on my couch,” said Cheryl. “It’s a wonder we ever got together. For our first real date he was two hours late. It was 2000 and we went to La Cantina at Avenue Road and Davenport. There was something about him, I had had three other invitations for that evening, but I waited for him.”

“As is typical of many Torontonians with cottages, the acid test in my family is how people handle the cottage. It was less than 3 months after our 1st date that I invited Don to meet my family at the cottage. It wasn’t long before I was taking Don and all of his friends to the cottage.”

“We have our own system now,” says Don. “We start the first evening with flank steak that has been marinating for at least 24 hours (check out the recipe in last week’s Friday Recipes). It’s super simple and everyone loves it. We match it up with roasted potatoes tossed in Keg spice. We use the little roasters, then no one needs to do anything. Veg is corn on the cob or green beans.”

“Summer at the cottage is all about the friends, family and water sports,” says Cheryl. “It’s sitting with a good book on the Muskoka Porch or hanging on for dear life to the tubes as we whip around behind the boat. I grew up here and so love that I can share it with my family.”

“It’s when we decided to get married that we started looking for a place to call our family home,” said Cheryl. “My apartment was not convenient to Don’s work in Markham. My office is downtown, so our search was for a home that was centrally situated and would allow both of us about equal travel time.”

“We came across these houses as they were being built,” says Don. “We are the original owners. When we bought in, we were the last house on the street. We initially looked at the townhomes at the end of Barber Green but found the layout and size of these homes more attractive. We moved-in February 13th, 2004 (it was a Friday).”

“Our girls – identical twins Chloe and Emily – were born here in 2006,” says Cheryl. “We had decided we would have one child and we would handle the “single child” situation by having lots of friends that would have one child as well. Then one night while I was pregnant, I had one of those vivid dreams that you remember every detail of, and I dreamt I was having twins. Now being a little superstitious, I thought if I told everyone about my dream, then it would definitely not come true. Not to be, the first ultrasound showed twins. We told my parents they were going to be grandparents at Christmas 2005. We gave them the book “Chicken Soup for the Grandparents’ Soul”.

“I had the whole thing planned out. I had visions of my mother staying with me for the first while, helping with the babies. Instead, my mother suffered a stroke before their birth and was not in any condition to help out. My mother and father were at the hospital when the girls were born, but then left for Michigan for another family function.”

“We had planned on this home being a first until something bigger came up, but as time has gone by, we’ve chosen to stay. When the girls were babies, their nanny would take them to the park all the time,” said Don. “I have photos of the girls, both in the same swing, laughing as babies. Now they're 15 and spend most of their time with our newest family member – Billie the rescue pup (named for Billie Jean King).”

“Covid and on-line learning have been difficult," said Cheryl. "The girls go to Bayview Glen. The structure of the online classes were 3 hours long each. I don’t know how they did it as I can’t sit in a three hour Zoom meeting."

“As this discussion started, we are so lucky to be here in this hidden community. I liked it before Don got sick, I love it now. I don’t know how I would have gotten through Don’s illness without our wonderful neighbours checking in on me and the girls almost daily. Thank you everyone for all that you do.”

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