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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Back and Forth

Every once in a while, Dave and I come up to Barrie, the town where my parents lived after their retirement.  Our son Chris, our friend Annie, our granddaughter Phoebe and my brother Sean still live here, although not together.

When we're here, we stay with Sean in my mum and dad's house, and it's always disquieting.  So much of the house is as my parents left it; so much is not, and I just can't figure out how I feel about that.

I think we must all want to be able to "go back" to somewhere familiar, although as an Army kid it didn't occur to me that there would ever be such a thing.  We all knew that Army families don't live anywhere for too long, and if you were hardcore, as we were, you could actually never know anyone other than more Army families.

With that background, I certainly never expected that my parents would buy a house with a big yard, that Dave and I would get married there, bring home our children, our friends, our in-laws, our colleagues, acquaintances and people we met at the beach.  It was a lovely warm home, with the doors always on the go, cars and bicycles in the lane, new babies and old neighbours sitting in the shade of the catalpa tree which threw its sticky flowers all over the yard.   Someone was always making tea (never me---I can't tell when water has become tea, so I was excused); someone else was always drinking it.

Now that both my parents are gone, when I'm here I find myself careening crazily from giddiness to silent tears:  smiling at the framed pictures of the grandchildren and their children all willy-nilly on every close-to-flat surface, touching the kitchen table my uncle made from a Canadian Tire door one day, drying my face on a towel that hangs next to my mother's bathrobe.

The house is not in great shape structurally and we all worry about it, but Sean says there's no place he'd rather be, and now sitting in what was my brother Doug's bedroom, under a huge poster of Bob Dylan in curls and a velvet jacket, I'm inclined to understand him.  Catching a glimpse of my dad's medals sitting on the china cabinet I remember my parents buying with such joy and trepidation, I can see how this house can pull me in, even though my feet are freezing.  Brushing against a fairly badly-done trapunto picture I made for mum and dad in the 70s, hitting my toe against the quirky kitchen chair for the 8th time since starting the dishes, and finding that the bathroom door won't quite close, I wonder at the happiness we felt here over the years and suspect that maybe nostalgia has hit me upside the head yet again.

Back and forth, pain and joy, delight and sadness, familiarity and loneliness.  Now that's the kind of house I want to leave for my kids.


  1. That's not a house; it's a home. See you soon.

  2. How lovely your post is today! You are a great writer and I could picture myself being there. I'm glad your brother has decided to keep the home for you to visit. As for leaving a house like that for your kids, you will have to up-size again and leave your condo :) Marta

  3. A lovely post for Thanksgiving. My home was sold to help play for Dad's nursing home bills. It is in a very sad state of disrepair. THe owners have allowed my relatives to walk through it, but would not let my niece have recipes Mother had pasted inside a cupboard door. The owner did not even live in the house. It just sits there empty, but full of memories for 3 children and some grandchildren who remember.

  4. I had to look up "trapunto" ...

    You are fortunate there is still a family home to return to. For many, those are long gone. Several exist in my memories and occasionally in dreams I return to them, with such joy and a sense of "coming home."

  5. they say you can never go home again, i think you can and you have. nice post.

  6. What a beautiful post--and how delightful that you can step back into time with the house--but without your beloved parents. I spent time today with my friend Mary Lou who lost her husband 10 weeks ago. She was recounting Thanksgiving without him--and how startling it is to see that the family and the world just go on, somehow, without him. I think of my parents so often and occasionally (every few years) drive by their house which is about 35 miles from here.

  7. Nice Mummy.

    XOX S.

  8. Lorna, your description of your home as it was in the "early years" exactly matches the home I always thought I'd have, full of love, laughter and joy, full of LIFE. My fantasy home was so vivid in my mind, and always accompanied by the sound of a screen door banging shut - "doors always on the go" is a lovely way to say it.
    Well, I never got that marriage, family and physical home, but I did, by paying a lot of attention to my inner life, get the "back and forth, pain and joy, delight and sadness, familiarity and loneliness" that constitute Life. And by finding it inside of me, I can "go home" at a moment's notice. So maybe I got my fantasy home after all - thank you so much for helping me make that connection.