Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Five Places: Barrie Street

493 Barrie Street, Kingston, Ontario
University students have an astonishing propensity for moving. I lived in a different house or apartment every year that I attended Queen's University in Kingston. But the most memorable house was on Barrie Street.

This is where I lived during second year. It's where I cried my heart out, slept late, met my husband Stephen, and barely passed my year.

The roomies: Heather, Wynn Anne, Deb, Stephanie - on Wynn Anne's bed
What you can't see in this picture is what a bunch of psychologically disabled women we were. Never mind synchronized lunar cycles, we were all, to greater or lesser degrees, bat-shit crazy. Sadly, the only one I'm still in touch with is Heather. She and I are no longer bat-shit crazy. (Hah!)

Here are a few memories of this dilapidated place:

I remember baking chocolate chip cookies and eating them with cheap red wine -- on an almost regular basis.

Heather took in a stray kitten named Tasha. Tasha decided to keep warm under a car hood one winter night and ended up being seriously injured and requiring casts on her front legs. That kitten valiantly navigated the house, including the stairs and the toilet, while she healed. I wish I had video.

The hall from the front door to the kitchen at the back served as our bicycle garage. (It was a student house; style was not a concern. Neither was cleanliness.)

After the Christmas break, I leapt over those bicycles to give Stephen a teddy-bear hug when he returned from his trip to Israel (where he had visited his parents). We weren't dating at the time, though I had broken up with the previous boyfriend, but I was filled with joy to see him.

As with most student housing, it was in a rough part of town, because that's where the cheap rent is. One night I heard a commotion and learned that there was a car engulfed in flames in the middle of the street in front of our house. I don't recall the fire department or police showing up, though I'm sure they must have.

Another night, Stephen and our friend Billy (both of whom spent a great deal of time at that house, eating chocolate chip cookies and drinking wine) were walking up Barrie Street when they ended up getting in a row with one of our drunken neighbours. Steve and Billy were both in great physical shape (they were young military cadets, after all) and were more sober than the hooligans chasing them, so they made it home just fine.

But the goons stuck around, pummeling the front door. I was terrified that they would actually break the door! We called the police, but I don't think they ever showed up. Or, if they did, it was long after the threat had passed.

In the spring, Deb moved out and Stephen moved into her room. That is when I discovered his 20-year (or longer) collection of MAD magazine and decided that perhaps I should be dating him after all; that combination of OCD and twisted humour seemed so well suited to me.

All in all, it was probably as typical a student house as one could find anywhere. It was impoverished, chaotic, and independent, and it brought some lasting relationships.

This post is one of five in response to the question:
If you had to describe your life in five places, which sites would you choose and why?
Other posts in the series:
My Mother's Childhood Home
My Childhood Home
Bravo Zulu
In the Green Wood


  1. :) This reminds me very much of a similar rental house I had in university (one of many, as well) and brings back good memories.

    1. It's fun to look back and realize how much you - and your life - have changed!

  2. Since I grew up in Kingston, I am quite familiar with Barrie street and student residence. more specifically house and street parties. Boy -- they sure could get wild some times. I didn't go to Queens University, but if I did -- I feel quite certain that I would have ended up sharing a house on Barrie with some girlfriends.


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