Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Five Places: My Childhood Home

My siblings and I form a pyramid in front of our childhood home.
Top: Christine
Middle: Wynn Anne, Patricia
Bottom: Andrew, Stewart, Douglas, Harvey
My friend Bronwyn, of I, MayB, is posting a series based on the question:
If you had to describe your life in five places, which sites would you choose and why?
I've so enjoyed her posts that I've decided to do my own series and I'm going to start with the home I grew up in, in Burlington, Ontario.

Although I was born in the Gaspé Peninsula, in Quebec, we left there when I was only two years old, so I really have no memories of that place and, in fact, have never been back.

I was a pre-schooler, perhaps even just a toddler, when we moved to Burlington. It was a brand new subdivision with no trees. At the end of our street was a gravel road and farmers' fields. It was the very edge of town -- a town which has now grown to swallow up those fields.

It was a great place to be a kid. There were an open creek and open fields and a forest behind our house, where we spent hours "catching fish," building forts, scraping knees, and getting blood suckers on our legs. We would pack a picnic lunch and disappear for the entire day in the summer.

Kitchen garden in the foreground, family gathered in the background.
L-R: Douglas, Christine, Wynn Anne, Patricia, Frank (Dad), Dorothy (Mom), Andrew, Stewart, Kelly (Stewart's dog)
(Harvey took the picture.)
My parents planted fruit trees and a kitchen garden in the back yard. I loathed that vegetable patch - every year it was a torment to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, pull the weeds. Only now am I coming to appreciate the wonderful produce we had. Those tomatoes!

The house itself had, perhaps, the worst layout of any home I've lived in. It was a split-level, which meant you were always climbing stairs, but that wasn't the worst part.

The drawing at left shows the main floor. The floor was divided into two long, narrow bowling alleys - and then my mother crammed it full of as much furniture as it would hold, including two eating areas.

Having grown up during the Great Depression, my parents were both moderate hoarders. We had drawers and hutches full of everything imaginable: mismatched china, old letters and coupons, string, elastic, bits of plastic, screws, serving dishes. Things went missing (all of my school report cards, cheques).

(This may explain some of my OCD. Also, ironically, my own hoarding.)

Both the kitchen and the living room (and there was no family room) were passageways, and with a family of nine there was always someone passing through. I cannot fathom how my mother cooked a meal in that kitchen without stabbing someone with a knife.

Oh, now that I think of it, she tried that. (I'm not even exaggerating. She lost her head a few times in that kitchen.)

From the front door, you could see straight through the kitchen and down the stairs to the powder room. I'm pretty sure that breaks all sorts of feng shui laws. (The greatest feature of this house was that it had two bathrooms. A godsend!)

My mother never stopped trying to make that place beautiful, but it was a losing battle. The "bones" of the place were just wrong, an no amount of wallpaper or carpet could change that.

But it was home.


  1. I love the picture of your family in the yard with the garden in the foreground. It's great.

    1. I do, too. No one knew the picture was being taken, so no one posed or put on smiles. It's just the family being what it was. (Though I do wish Harvey had found a way to put himself in the picture, too.)


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