Alex House Lifer

Tuesday, July 21, 2020 - By: Kenya Bontkes, Alex ‘20

 The following was delivered at the Lifers’ Dinner in late May, 2020.

Hello parents, teachers, houseparents and fellow lifers,

For four years I have watched as select Grade 12s march off to this mysterious event called a Lifers’ Dinner. I didn’t know what exactly happened but I knew that it involved sparkling apple juice, theatre dress and lots of photos and laughs with good friends.

It was just one of many things that I was looking forward to in June - you know things like field days, gov docks, studying on the field, Grad, and of course - a Lifers’ Dinner with all of you.  

Nevertheless, I am grateful to Mrs. Stevens, the Yearbook team and all those involved in making this night still happen. Although we’re not sitting in the Foote Center and eating one of Brentwood’s finest meals, tonight we can still drink our sparkling apple juice in our bedrooms across the world, celebrating being lifers, on a Zoom call with a bad internet connection.   

I could, we could, dwell on what we missed out on. Or, in the true spirit of Grit and Joy - which we have been repeatedly reminded of the past four years - we can talk about the moments we did get and how those have ultimately brought us here today and will go with us as we leave the virtual and real gates of Brentwood behind.

In September 2016 I walked into Alex House anxious to meet the new faces. I was welcomed into the house by a woman with fuzzy pink slippers and a warm Jamaican accent who told me Alex House was soon going to be my family. I had no idea how real that phrase would become. I remember trekking up three flights of stairs to a bustling, narrow hallway that was apparently “the day student room” . Every Day Student room since then has been slightly hazardous and it didn’t help that I was surrounded by grade 12s rolling their suitcases in their luxurious suites and grade 9s hustled into their broom closets. I still remember the faint yet pungent odour of 99 cent ramen noodles that filled Leah and Jasleen’s room, most likely due to the lack of air circulation.

We Grade 9s, day students and boarders, were blamed equally by the Grade 12s for leaving the bathrooms in a disgusting mess even though I'm pretty sure we were all too afraid to leave even a stray hair on the floor for fear of repercussion. We bonded quickly, defending each other and presenting a united front. There was one particular member who really put up a front, although she had slippery fingers and is no longer with us.  

As Grade 9 and then 10, 11 and 12 have passed, we have welcomed more Alex recruits into our family. While some think that the Alex House Class of 2020 is cliquey - I ask how could a divided group win the Air Band competition year after year. We’ve encountered bumps throughout these 4 years but we’ve grown closer because of them. A true family.

And how could we not be? We had an animated house mother telling us to unroll our skirts and “not be naughty girls”. A couple of devoted parents - the Wismers - lovingly raising their adorable children in our midst. Toddler jokes and stinky dog slobber. A house full of older sisters to borrow clothes from. Quick dips at 7am, inhouse breakfasts, learning too much about my fellow Alex girls at the Big-Littles, the call of the forbidden crawl space, the traditions, the sisterhood, the dino-mighty times.

Through it all we have been cared for, mentored, comforted and inspired by a team of amazing people who have coloured our livelihood.

Ms. Davis who always has a bright smile and a kind word

Mrs. Whitney - who's tough - but genuine - love and quick-witted sense of humour keep us laughing and motivated.

Ms. Richardson - who fills the house with her cheerful jokes and makes sure we all stay on task.

Ms. MacInnis - who is so approachable and encourages us to live outside of our comfort zones.

Madame Hall -  who is always supportive, positive and kind - truly a safe person and a strong advocate .

Mr Warner - who scolds us for our boyfriend choices and devotes his Monday nights to giving us all extra Math help.

Mrs. Warner and Ms. Hall - the incredible duo who have probably had one of the most hectic first years of house parenting.  It is thanks to them that we have not only stayed connected, but in some ways become more connected, throughout this crazy time.  

Mrs. Warner - I have loved watching you with Sullivan and Findley, and I’m sad that I won’t get to know Brooks, the newest addition to the house. You have taken over the role of houseparent so well and we are all thankful for how hard you have worked to maintain the family feeling of Alex House

Ms. Hall - you have been my rock since grade 8.  Your ability to comfort all of us and allow us to open up to you while still reminding us to roll down our kilts and push up our socks is amazing. You’ve taught us all to believe in ourselves and to strive for our dreams.

And Mrs. Mais - Maisy. You reminded us to NEVER be a rude child and provided us with new expressions such as “no goshing way”, “too bad so sad your dad”, and “quick chicks”, as well as the lyrics to “Build me up, Buttercup”. You have taught us to respect ourselves and respect others, you’ve always listened and made us feel like our problems mattered and we mattered. A one-of-a-kind woman.

Finally I want to also acknowledge the Alex House Lifers. It is hard to remember what it was like back in Grade 9, but I know that since day one, I have been applauding Jasleen for her constant accolades, Leah for her witty jokes that keep us in hysterics, Megan for her comforting smile and kind heart, Rae for her ability to be good at EVERY SINGLE SPORT, Quin for her spunkiness and love of adventure, and Rachel for her liveliness and ability to make friends with everyone. I feel so grateful to have known you all and I can’t wait for what’s in store for you in the future.

We never fully leave our families - they have shaped who we are and will always hold a place in our hearts. I was never a fan of the Brentwood Bubble thing because it sounded like someone was either in or out. But now that I am departing, I’ve realized what a gift it has been to me to be in. The people here - the students, the teachers, the coaches, the kitchen and laundry staff, the maintenance staff  - they all make up this bubble and they are the real magic. I know that our bond is bigger than the miles that will separate us. And I know that even though we didn’t get that last hoorah under the white tent that I’m throwing my cap with you all anyway.

It has been such a privilege being in Alex House for the past four years and while I wish I could express my gratitude in person, I know that our Brentwood story doesn’t end here. Thank you.

Kenya Bontkes, Alex ‘20

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