Continuing with the theme "where's home," as I type this, movers load boxes and furniture from my father's house in Toronto. My Toronto family have completed a mammoth task - spearheaded by my sister Carolyn - to move my father from his home of the past 47 years. You may remember I blogged about The Farm being sold earlier this year and now my childhood home, too. The move is the right thing to do - the house is huge and dad needs to downsize. He is very active, doing lots of travel and sailing, therefore something more manageable makes more sense. But it still hurts. It's hard to be here in Hong Kong while the family works very hard to clear out 47 years of all that could be packed into a five bedroom, three-story home on the coattails of clearing out a country property a few months ago with a house, several sheds, a barn and one hundred acres. It's hard not to feel as though I am not pulling my weight. (At left: the house this past summer; me waving good-bye to a friend from Malaysia in the summer of 1990.)
During the summer while my dad was sailing, Carolyn project managed a modest renovation of the house to make it more marketable. What an amazing transformation! To start, the floors had been covered for about 46 years with wall-to-wall carpet. Beneath them lay a treasure of gorgeous wood. The pictures were posted online and I was flabbergasted at how great the house looked. Naturally a buyer snapped the place up in a flash and the deal closes in the next few days. Poignant Charles sits here struggling with the attachment. I know, let go of the physical because I have great memories of the home a that's what I can hold onto - the happy story of a childhood home. Memories like the ones attached to this picture - the dining room where we had hundreds of family dinners. I remember sitting here and making cassette tapes during Christmas dinners because my sisters, at various times, were overseas.
I remember our living room, where we never lit a fire in the fireplace for fear of cracking the marble. I remember early Christmases with visiting relatives. I remember everyone trying to cram onto the sofa for group family photos. I remember parent dinner parties. I remember my mother knitting in the corner chair. I remember sitting in this room and playing the piano. I remember sitting in this room and people reading to me from the Family Bible when I was seven or eight years old. I remember that tree outside starting not much bigger than a sapling. (Left: the day Penny returned from Neuchatel.)
I remember my two bedrooms, yes two, but not at the same time. The room at the end of the hall on the right was my bedroom from 1 to 14 years old. The summer I turned 14, I moved into the room on the left. It was a little bigger and by then my sisters, being at university, weren't living at home so other rooms became the guest rooms. I remember the room on the right had dark blue toy soldier curtains. I remember having a small transistor radio and listening to it while falling asleep at night. I used to hunt for hits like "Rock The Boat" and "I Was A Fool." I had a small hand-me-down record player from my sister, Penny, and after seeing American Graffitti listened to the soundtrack over and over and over. I was in the room on the left when I heard on CFNY that John Lennon died and eventually the room became "head office" for BC Yachts. (Left: circa 66/67, me one Christmas with "Bambi.")
I remember my parents' bedroom, which remarkably had the same timeless bedroom set forever. I don't think the lay-out of this room changed much during the entire time the house was in the family. The glow of the evening lights, with my parents lying in bed reading, is burned into my mind's eye forever. I remember my last trip to Toronto before moving to Hong Kong. My mother way lying in bed and I sat on the right side talking with her. She was very upset that I was going halfway around the world and we talked about why I was moving. I remember when my mother was in the hospital prior to passing away she said that all she wanted to do was come back to this room.
In the basement we lit fires in the fireplace with roaring success. This was where I listened to most of the music of my younger years, especially Elton John. This was where I watched TV: Superman, Batman, the Beverley Hillbillies, Emergency. This was where I saw history with the Apollo moon landings on a black and white TV. One of the earliest memories of my life was when John F. Kennedy was killed. All I knew was that something bad had happened. At the time my parents were away and someone was babysitting me. I toddled around the corner and the babysitter said to me, "You shouldn't be watching this." Eventually the TV became colour, we got cable and a VHS player, too. In the basement my dad was a HAM Radio operator (VE3 AGM) and also made wine. I remember Christmas 1966 and walking downstairs very early to discover a huge red fire engine waiting for me. My mother came down and said, "It's okay to play with it, but please play quietly." Wow, that sounds familiar these days!
Then there was the backyard where my mother nursed roses to Canadian Champion levels. I remember playing in the backyard, which faced onto a park, at all ages. I remember snowdrifts above my shoulders, lighting off firecrackers on July 1st holidays and cutting the grass. I remember the bird feeders, squirrels and doing projects with my dad in the garage. I remember re-building the patio because it kept tilting over - rumour had it that years ago, prior to the house being built, a spring ran through the property and the builders never managed to re-route the natural run off. I have no idea if that's true, but I do know this was the first house on the block and when we first moved in the park was actually farm land. (Left: one of the last large family photos together, 2000.)
Sunday night in Toronto my family gathered around the dining room table for the last time... and called me. This time I am the one away but they called me to include me in The Last Supper at 124. And so I am grateful for a wonderful childhood home. I am grateful for the memories. I am grateful that it was safe... we never had any serious emergencies or mishaps. We never had any fires (except of course when, at ten years old, I tried to make popcorn underneath the front stairs) and we were never burgled. I was incredibly blessed and fortunate to have such a safe home and loving mom, dad and sisters who shared this home with me. But as this home slips away the theme remains the same, where's home, what lies in the future? Obviously we live here in Hong Kong and have a home right now that we love. But there are other forces at work in my life and as each day goes by, and The Farm and childhood home slip away, it's both harder and easier to say good-bye. (Left: the view from my parents' bedroom window of my dad walking up the street with my niece, Carly; nine year old birthday when I received my first camera.)
John 14: 1 - 4, The Road
"Don't let this throw you. You trust God, don't you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father's home. If that weren't so, would I have told you that I'm on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I'm on my way to get your room ready, I'll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I'm taking."