This week’s guest blog is by Randy Morassut, who is the Principal of Tom Thomson P.S. in Burlington. A resident of Burlington for about 14 years now, Randy started his teaching career at an American school in Brazil and has been with the Halton District School Board for the last 12 years. He spent 4 years as the Vice Principal at Aldershot and this past year as Principal of Tom Thomson. He lives with his wife and three children in Downtown Burlington. We’re thrilled to have his view on life in Downtown Burlington…
“I found our house. I absolutely fell in love with it the second I saw it. It completely reminds me of my Grammie’s house,” Amy said as she walked into our apartment. So began our lives in downtown Burlington.
Having recently moved from Northern Ontario, I’d only lived in Southern Ontario for about a year, so I’d never even been to Burlington, but why not, it was a pretty little place and we only had about five months before our first baby would be here. Thirteen years and three children later, I’m still thankful that Amy fell in love with that house.
In a sense, I feel like the downtown has grown with our family. I remember walking down a deserted Brant Street during snowy, dark, winter nights with our daughter bundled into the front of my parka, turning our faces away from the whipping wind that came across the lake as we walked across the boardwalk. Many of the shops were closed and the skyline was made up of the familiar two or three story buildings with a sprinkling of apartment buildings here and there.
As the skyline changed so did the neighbourhood. Tired looking houses began to shine again, and the sound of young kids could be heard more and more around every corner. “Save Central School” signs that decorated front lawns were now relegated to garage corners as another threat was avoided. People were out walking and enjoying the neighbourhood and it didn’t take the Santa Clause Parade, or Ribfest, or the Sound of Music to bring people out of their houses.
Having never consciously considered the advantages and disadvantages of living in a certain area I became more and more aware of how lucky we were to be living here. Being fortunate enough to work near downtown means that for the most part, my life revolves around the core. We walk to the local grocery store or buy meals from local restaurants, which have become more and more diverse since moving in. Pizza for dinner has now been joined by authentic burritos, great Thai and Chinese, exotic Persian dishes and a host of other international flavours. Handmade Belgian chocolates or delicious bakery goods for the sweet tooth complement the ice cream and gelato shops.
Many of our weekend days are spent walking to local places like the skating rink at Spencer Smith or the Burlington Art Gallery. We take the kayak down to the lake and enjoy the sun on the water. Our kids walk to school every day with their friends and visits to friends’ houses are only metres away.
As they have gotten older it has been very natural to have them gain more and more independence: strength in numbers. As I got out of my car on Martha Street on Friday I heard three of my Grade 6 students from school shout in unison “Hey, Mr. Morassut,” as they walked happily down the street enjoying the special feeling of a stolen day off because of a PD Day.
The kids are able to walk to parks and shops with their friends or attend any number of the festivals happening downtown with many sets of eyes in the neighbourhood watching and caring. Whenever I hear someone say, “Times are so different for kids nowadays,” I can’t help thinking that the kids downtown have been able to maintain a somewhat independent life because of how close things and people are and how many things there are to do nearby.
I sure am glad that Amy saw that house. That fixer upper has brought so much more to our lives than we could have ever imagined.