Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Kingston, Ontario/Florida Keys/Playa
Finding my grandparents' house - 47 years later
I drove to Ottawa today to photograph the tulips in Commissioners' Park at Dow's Lake.
On the highway back to Kingston, I noticed a sign for Manotic, a historic village. My grandparents and aunt and uncle had built homes across the street from each other in the late 50's in a rural area. I used to spend lots of time in summers here as a young child and as a city kid, it was an adventure to be able to pick vegetables from my grandfather's garden for dinner and endure the wicked thunder and lightening storms.
I pulled off the highway and with the help of some locals was soon on my way to Bowesville Road. My childhood memories didn't have many landmarks and it was more difficult than I expected. What had been pastureland was still a rural area but there were lots of trees and shrubs that obscured the houses and confused me. Eventually I narrowed it down and determined that one particular house had likely been my aunt and uncle's home.
I walked up to the door and rang the bell. Soon a cheerful looking woman came to speak to me and I told her what I was looking for. She asked me to tell her my uncle's last name. I did. KABOOM......"He dropped me like a hot potatoe, I was his girlfriend and he married someone else"......ohh.....that would have been my mother's younger sister. Since this foray off the highway was an impulse type trip, I hadn't thought to bring valium or alcohol (fool) and wished I could offer her either or both.
Her husband (of 49 years), came out to say "Hello" and she told him all about her former boyfriend, who had been her best friend's brother. Ohh.....Kevin Bacon......was it 6 degrees of separation? I was taken aback. I hasten to assure her in that way that women have that my aunt's marriage to the potato dropper had ended in divorce, so she had really gotten the better deal.
Soon, she had calmed down and graciously took me through the house and yard, not as many memories coming back as I expected because there was so much foliage, trees, fences and outbuildings, but it was great to be back in the kitchen where I could almost hear the sound of my aunt's laughter again, almost 50 years later. My grandparents' house was totally renovated and larger and I struggled to recognize the bones of the structure from my faded memories. A grove of tall high pine trees stood where the front yard would have been.
In 1963 my mother's youngest sister (5 years my elder) died of cancer at the age of 16. No one knew what cancer was in those days and the doctors were helpless in their efforts to fight this new and then unknown foe. Two years later my grandmother died, officially of cancer, but some in the family say it was a broken heart. My aunt and uncle sold their house and moved to California, almost putting as many miles as possible away from those houses where grief ruled. My grandfather also sold his house and moved away.
I have always wondered what happened to those houses on Bowesville Road, where I used to pick vegetables in the garden with my grandfather and then run across the street to eat dessert with my aunt and uncle and cousins. I have some vague memories of my uncle's large boxer dog who used to chase the cars who dared venture on that stretch of road that was his turf, I don't remember him catching any tires but do remember what an incredible bark and chase he put up.
In some ways this was a pilgrimage. I didn't realize it when I turned off the highway, it seemed like a lark, a hot, sunny day driving around in the country, probably find a huge subdivision with a Home Depot that wouldn't have brought back any sense of recognition but I'm happy to report to my aunt, (who still lives in the US) that her former home and love rival are both doing well and eventually I'll get around to downloading the images of the tulips and the houses, right now I'm still basking in the glow of days gone by but still remembered.
Live, live, live. Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.
Rosalind Russell, "Auntie Mame" 1958
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Vancouver, WA
Thanks for taking the time to tell us this story. I enjoyed it very much.
I drove by the house I grew up in while taking my son on a sightseeing trip. The people were home and I went up to them and told them who I was. Two hours later we were off but it was a wonderful time. It hasn't been 47 years since I had been there; only 25.
Join Date: Aug 2001
It's always fun to take a trip down memory lane.
On a recent trip to Hampton VA to see our son, we traveled along Virginia's Eastern Shore where I grew up...my wife indulged me while I took a couple of side trips to relive old times.
More recently, I was visiting my Dad and he had a picture on the wall I didn't recgnize. He told me it was circa 1955 and was a picture of the pub where he met my mother. The Cross in Woodbridge, England. That sent me in search on google maps of where we lived in England when I was 6-8 yrs old. With Dad's help, we narrowed down where our old house was...it was really fun and he had never seen google maps and the detail it can give you.