My parents have just put their home on the market, and it has me reminiscing about the place where I spent my childhood.
My childhood was a very happy time: I was raised by two loving parents, Linda and Bryn, but also a doting grandmother, Kay. Add in the family dog, Tia, and you have the recipe for thousands of joyful memories. We’ve (literally – my parents have lived there since I was a year old) celebrated a lifetime of occasions in this house.
We’ve celebrated birthdays:
Check out that awesome beach-themed birthday cake my mom made me! Still my favourite birthday cake EVER. And that’s my grandmother seated beside me. The expression on her face says it all: there’s nothing she liked better than to be surrounded by children!
In case you’re wondering, this was my Harry Potter-themed 12th birthday. I believe I am casting “wingardium leviosa” (that’s “leviOsa”, NOT “levioSA”).
That one was taken at my 21st birthday. My paternal grandmother, Louise, is on the left, and my great-aunts Monique and Jean are on the right. That screen porch is definitely where most of the birthday magic happened in our family, because all of our birthdays are in July!
Most recently, we’ve gotten to know some of our new family from Mexico. Here’s my dad and my brother-in-law, Andrés. So many fishing catch pictures have been taken in this house!
The house is just west of Carp, which is about 25 minutes from downtown Ottawa. It’s funny how my parents’ home never seemed that big while I was actually living there. It was ideal for our needs because my grandmother had her own granny-flat apartment in the basement. Up until her death in 2005, the whole house was most definitely occupied! Some of my favourite memories are of time spent with her in her granny-flat. I learned to write at her dining room table and I learned to love books while curled up in her bed. We would read “The Secret Garden” over and over, until I had “learned” to read it – which really meant memorizing it. She installed a bread box at the entrance to the apartment so that we could leave little notes and gifts for each other, just like the March family in “Little Women”.
With her passing, the house began to feel a bit roomier, but a teenage daughter (me) has a tendency of filling up space. Plus, I was a very busy teenager, so every corner was filled with sheet music, violins, Renaissance costumes, highland dance gear, and school supplies.
When I moved to Montreal in 2006 the house got a bit bigger, but since I still came home frequently it didn’t feel as though that much had really changed. Of course it had, but I was too busy being a self-absorbed eighteen-year-old university student to take much notice. The time I spent there changed too. Suddenly, my parents were not only the guiding figures in my life but my friends, too. We spent many happy evenings enjoying this newfound closeness over a delicious meal and good bottle of wine (another big change!).
As university dragged on, the house seemed a little less “mine” and bit more “theirs”. Changes would happen while I was away and it would take me by surprise. At first it felt a bit betraying to see my parents changing my childhood home. As selfish and silly as those feelings were, I think they are the natural reaction for any adult child. As I grew up more, graduated from McGill, and started my own professional life, those changes became more drastic – kitchen renovations, bathroom makeovers – and yet I felt them less keenly. The house was no longer mine, but rather a wonderful, memory-filled place in which I would always be welcome, but always – just a little bit – a visitor.
In that time, the kitchen changed from this (and yes that’s Annie and yes we were making the most delicious Christmas truffles EVER):
It’s a pretty far cry from what it looked like just a few years ago.
Now I have a house of my own and a family of my own. Of course my parents are still two of my closest friends, and we are as strongly linked by blood as we ever were, but our relationship to each other and our surroundings has changed markedly. Now they come to visit me in the house Erick and I are making into a home. They ooh and ahh over each new improvement or change that we make to the house, just like I used to when I would visit. I think they like seeing homeownership through new eyes.
It makes me sad to think that I’ll never take my children “home” for Christmas or Thanksgiving, but I love the thought of a whole new chapter in the house’s life. I hope that the new owners will eat dinner in the dining room every night. This dining room has seen some of the best dinner parties in the history of dinner parties!
I love the fact that for the real estate photos, my mom set the table with a bottle of wine and four places. Nothing ever changes!
It strikes me that in all the non-real estate photos in this post, the focal point is not the house itself but rather the people. I think that speaks to the fundamental of what is “home”. Home is the backdrop for the action of our lives. It changes, evolves, and grows with us. In the end, wherever my parents live will still feel like “home”. Home is, after all, not defined by physical space, but rather the people who inhabit it.