Queen of Sara­sota Av­enue is mak­ing her rounds

Those who dig­nify her royal tour are re­warded with smiles, hugs and some­times kisses

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - FRANK DE PALMA Frank De Palma is a free­lance writer liv­ing in Bed­ford, N.S. who punc­tu­ates life with vis­its to his home­town of Hamil­ton

While the King of Kens­ing­ton oc­cu­pied the rar­efied Cana­dian TV air­waves of the 1970s, a mod­ern-day ver­sion is rolling in a quiet west moun­tain Hamil­ton neigh­bour­hood.

As I ac­com­pany my 86-year-old mother on a post-sup­per sum­mer stroll along her street, it oc­curs to me she has qui­etly taken on the role of Queen of Sara­sota Av­enue.

There was no of­fi­cial cer­e­mony to mark the ap­point­ment. She as­sumed the role with­out royal assent or fan­fare and wears a straw hat to keep the sun at bay — so much more prac­ti­cal than a tiara or crown.

Her sib­lings have all gone — three sis­ters and a brother — leav­ing her to keep watch and keep pace with­out them.

With both hands grip­ping her wheeled walker, she sets off on block-long walkabout to visit her Sara­sota Av­enue sub­jects, all be­cause she feels a reg­u­lar and ur­gent need to get up close and per­sonal with ev­ery­one and any­one.

Res­i­dents of her realm come in var­i­ous shapes and sizes and age cat­e­gories. Some are held in less es­teem than oth­ers. Those who fail to make eye con­tact or ac­knowl­edge her walkabout are re­manded to Sara­sota Av­enue purgatory.

Those who dig­nify her royal tour with the proper amount of at­ten­tion are re­warded with smiles, hugs and some­times kisses.

“When you gonna come visit,” she asks a 90-year-old neigh­bour who lives five houses away. “Why you no live closer. You so far away.”

Com­pli­ments are ex­changed about gar­den­ing ef­forts and ob­ser­va­tions made about an ail­ing hus­band.

“He no look so good. Ev­ery­thing OK,” the Queen of Sara­sota asks.

In­vi­ta­tions are ex­tended and prom­ises made that will not likely be kept.

“I’m go­ing to come and knock on your door,” the 90-year-old tells the Queen.

Af­ter a hug, a kiss and per­haps a royal wave, the Queen is on her way again, keep­ing a steady pace, ob­serv­ing, mak­ing com­ments and tak­ing ev­ery­thing in — curbs, side­walk crevices and cracks. The King of Kens­ing­ton has noth­ing on this Hamil­ton Queen.

“I don’t know why those are there,” she says, point­ing to a clump of small logs in a gar­den bed. “They be there for a long time.”

A neigh­bour’s son leaves the house and gets into a car in the drive­way.

“He home for the sum­mer, look­ing for work. She al­ways looks af­ter her kids,” re­ports the Queen.

We are ready to make our turn at the end of the street.

A rab­bit loung­ing on a lawn catches her at­ten­tion as do birds of var­i­ous sizes and species.

With a well-kept prop­erty comes some so­cial com­men­tary.

“They have some­body come to cut their grass. Too hard for the hus­band now,” she ref­er­ences a set of con­tem­po­raries who share life on this tree-lined neigh­bour­hood that came to be in the late 1960s when many down­town Hamil­ton res­i­dents sought a bet­ter life at a higher el­e­va­tion.

“She no more come out­side. She just comes out to get in the car,” the Queen says of the spouse of the man who no longer mows his own lawn.

Most ev­ery sub­ject is ac­counted for; no cen­sus re­quired.

Soon we are back at our house. She is smil­ing. Her royal ex­er­cise has pro­vided her con­ver­sa­tion for in­side the house and she pro­vides a brief­ing to her hus­band.

In­side, in her cor­ner vin­tage Lazy-boy rocker throne, she has her win­dow on her world and now com­ments on those who are out­side walk­ing through her realm. She re­ports on who is from the neigh­bour­hood, who is not. What they wear and who and what they are each about.

The Queen of Sara­sota keeps watch and takes men­tal notes. Good, bad, but rarely in­dif­fer­ent.

It will be as it will be un­til the next time the Queen of Sara­sota, walker, straw hat and smile, em­barks on another tour. Sara­sota Av­enue res­i­dents con­sider your­selves given due no­tice to take no­tice. Af­ter all, who wouldn’t want to be king or queen for a day?

FRANK DE PALMA

Frank De Palma’s mom Do­rina, aka, the Queen of Sara­sota Av­enue.

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