Becoming Independent: Childhood in East Mississauga
Written by Nerissa Harrypersad
The earliest memory of a home that I can remember was living in an apartment building in East Mississauga, from the age of four to five and a half. Although I lived in a townhouse, in West Mississauga, from birth up to the age of four, I cannot recall any memories of living there. The apartment building in East Mississauga marked a lot of memories for me. Although I was young and lived there for a short period, I still have vivid memories of the environment as it relates to my childhood.
The apartment building was located on the intersection of Ponytrail Trail Drive and Fieldgate Drive in Mississauga, very close to the border of Toronto. To the east and south of the building were other apartment buildings, to the north of the building was a complex of older town houses, and to the west was a park and a shopping plaza. The shopping plaza contained a No Frills, I.D.A. Pharmacy, a dollar store, a family-owned bakery, and a Coffee Time. The area itself was old, yet well-maintained. It was a clean and safe area.
Our apartment was located on the tenth floor – the highest floor in the building. It contained two bedrooms, one bathroom, one living room, a kitchen, and a balcony. Overall, the apartment was small consider that it was shared by my parents, my year-older sister, my uncle and myself. My parents, sister and I shared a bedroom. It was a room that could only fit two beds and a dresser. My uncle had the second bedroom to himself. We were a close family and my parents and uncle would always take turns looking after my sister and I.
My parents and uncle immigrated to Ontario, Canada when they were in their late teenage years and worked very hard to make ends meet. My mom worked days at the dollar store located across from the building, my uncle worked days at a warehouse, and my dad worked nights at a warehouse. My uncle and parents would contribute to paying the rent, while also saving up to buy a house together. This left my sister and I to learn independence at a young age, where most days we would be left at home with my dad, who slept most of the time due to working the night shift and my mom and uncle being at work.
My sister and I spent many days entertaining ourselves. Whether it was summer or winter, we always enjoyed playing outside. We would dress ourselves, make sure to ask our dad for permission, and go outside to have some fun. Some people might see this as neglectful, but my parents taught us at a young age how to be safe and what to do in emergency situations, like call 9-1-1. We learned at a young age that my parents worked hard to pay to bills and we had an understanding.
The one place my sister and I always enjoyed going to was the park located next the building. Naturally as kids we were drawn to it. We would always go on the swings, play in the sand, and hang on the monkey bars. My parents always taught us not to go far from our building, and the park was the place we always chose to go to. The other place we always visited was the dollar store, located in the plaza next to the park. My sister and I always had an attachment to my mom and we missed her when she was at work. When we felt lonely at times and needed her presence, we would walk over to her work and pay her a visit. She was always happy to see us.
Living in this apartment building taught me how to be independent growing up. It taught me how to do things on my own at a young age. Also, watching my parents working as hard as they did to make ends meet taught me the value of money. It taught me that I would also have to work hard to make a good future for myself.
Something that I was too young to understand back then was the inequality that was involved as part of the struggle my family experienced. My parents and uncle faced inequalities as immigrants. They all had only completed high school in Trinidad and Tobago, where their education levels did not benefit them in Ontario. My mom once told me that when she lived back home, her aunts would brag about having a good life in Canada, and the reason why she came here was because she took their word. Little did she know that coming to Canada as an immigrant from the Caribbean was a struggle. My parents and uncle here came here with nothing, and little resources were provided to help them succeed as immigrants. For this reason, my parents have always raised me to value my education and to pursue a career that will benefit me financially.
Nerissa Harrypersad is currently a senior student at the University of Toronto- Mississauga, completing a Specialist in Sociology and a Major in Criminology. Raised by Trinidadian parents and coming from a rich Trinidadian culture, she is particularly intrigued by other cultures, while consistently learning something new about her own culture every day. She loves the study of culture and what it means to come from a particular ethnic background.