Where We Live
Written by Sandra Fletcher
The three friends meet every Sunday for breakfast: Steve, Alex and Aris. They’ve been friends since before they started school, and their families once lived all in a row on the same street. Their parents have known each other even longer – coming to Canada from Kalamata, Greece over 30 years ago to settle down, raise their families and open restaurants.
That’s right, three families, three restaurants – all within blocks of each other. The families all settled in Toronto’s Greek community in the Pape and Danforth area.
What was the best thing about being raised in a mostly Greek community? “Everyone is your brother,” they tell me. If you need a favour or a deal – someone in your community is always willing to help. And even when brothers fight, they make up.
Strong community bonds and strong networks of support are also formed from many generations living together. Alex was raised in a house where his brother, sister and parents lived with his grandparents. He, at the age of 32, still lives in his parent’s basement. It’s very common for Greeks to live with their parents until they are married.
The boys, now men, all attended the same school and the same church. They all know each other’s parents and siblings and extended families. They go to parties, date within their community, attend the weddings of couples who’ve met at those parties… they go to Greek-speaking doctors and Greek-speaking dentists… and they eat at Greek restaurants – even each other’s.
But things have changed in their group of friends. Steve’s family restaurant moved to a completely different part of the city, distinguished itself and has been extremely successful. When the restaurant moved, so did the family.
It was difficult, Steve explained, to be in a new area. “I didn’t know anyone I met on the street,” says Steve, “I had to make new friends, and also learn who to be cautious of.” It’s common, when moving away from a close knit community, to feel out of place.
Aris found that fitting in at University was a tough adjustment. When he was living out of town for post-secondary education, he didn’t have that same sense of security that living on the Danforth provided. He explained that in his community, Greek was always best; and it him took a long time to realize that things that weren’t Greek weren’t necessarily bad!
Soon the old friends from the Danforth will be attending Steve’s wedding. And no, he’s not marrying either Aris’s or Alex’s sister – he’s marrying Aris’s wife’s best friend. They will all be celebrating in a giant Greek banquet hall, along with nearly 500 of their friends and family members. A close knit community brings friendships and bonds that last generations – but it’s important that those bonds never make you blind or unconcerned about what goes on outside of your community.