Queen of Sarasota Avenue is making her rounds
Those who dignify her royal tour are rewarded with smiles, hugs and sometimes kisses
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’s mom Dorina, aka, the Queen of Sarasota Avenue.