Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Place to Belong

Today would have been my Granny's 93rd birthday. She died in November 2008 at the age of 90. I think about her a lot now and miss her. I'm from a very small family, and my Granny was an important part of my life. There is something so valuable about one generation reaching out and investing in the next one (or the one after in my Granny's case). She is a part of virtually every one of my significant childhood memories, and I never once doubted how much she loved me.

Earlier this summer, we took the kids to Stettler, where my Granny lived for most of her life. I loved taking my children on a tour of the parks I played at, the corner store I walked to for slurpees, the movie theatre I frequented, the restaurants we dined in, and the stores we shopped at. Ava has good memories of Granny, but William was only two when she died and most of his memories will be reconstructed through photos and discussions about her, and I want to keep her alive for them.

The night that we stayed in Stettler, I dreamed about my Granny's house. She had the best basement in the world, with orange and brown beaded curtains, and a kind of open plan where you could run in large circles through a number of rooms as long as all of the doors were open. My Grandfather, who died when I was five, had a narrow woodworking shop at the bottom of the basement stairs and we spent hours in there, poking around at all of the tools that my Granny never used but didn't have the heart to get rid of, and exploring every inch of that confined space.

The downstairs bathroom had a light purple rug which resembled a toy troll's hair (as an adult, I try not to focus too long on how repulsive this kind of carpet would be in a bathroom). You would walk in there and immediately lose your feet and ankles. We buried toys in that carpet and loved squishing our toes and fingers in it.

There was a sitting area in the basement with a wonderful fake fireplace which you could turn on with a switch and the "coals" would get hot and glow (I also try not to dwell on the dangers of young children playing with this ancient contraption for hours unsupervised in a basement). We would cook pretend stew in metal bowls over this heat source and come in from the imaginary cold after hunting with a toy rifle and eat this stew. Nothing ever tasted so good to me.

I love the detail stored in my brain about my Granny's house, and her basement in particular. Driving past it earlier this month, I wanted desperately to knock on the door and ask the new owners if I could show my kids around, as they had never been there when my Granny owned it. Jason was mortified at this idea, and convinced me that it would be changed now, eight years later, and that I should leave it as it was in my memory.

He was right, but sometimes I long to go back to those lazy days of childhood where time held no meaning as I played with my siblings in that basement, with my mom and Granny visiting upstairs over a cup of tea and homemade cookies. The feelings bubbling up from thinking about those days are warm and bring me to the edge of tears.

None of us can go back, except in our minds, and I'm so happy I have these memories. They make me more conscious of the ones my children are forming on a daily basis, and I know how precious these mental spaces are as we get older. They are a refuge, and a retreat when life is hard, and they give us a place to belong, and to feel safe, and to remember some of the tangible joys of childhood.


  1. Happy Birthday, Granny!

    What a beautiful post. I have similar memories about my Grantparents' place, though they still live in the same house so I can go back.

    I know you miss her. I'm thinking about you today.

  2. Thank you, Susan. I appreciate your thoughts. I made a dinner that Granny used to make (slumgullion) and we reminisced as a family about her. It was a good day.