High Park, Toronto

Dear Old House,

I think of you often. I can close my eyes and run my fingers along the smooth dark wood of your rumbling pocket doors. I can walk up your stairs, all three flights, and hear the squeals and groans that would accompany my ascent. So many late nights – I would still know where to place my feet silently. I wonder, is my name still inscribed in the layers of paint on your newel post on the third floor, my third floor? If I could have a piece of you, it might be your leaded-glass windows, or the rainbow-trapping crystal knobs that so fascinated me (grasped how many times, by whose hands?), or maybe the window seat in my 3rd floor bedroom. With the wood of that seat biting my knees, and screened from the street by the tall maples that flanked our yard, I watched Wright Ave and felt completely, invisibly safe.

I do still keep one of your skeleton keys – I alone could unlock your upstairs bathroom door.

I came by last summer, but I doubt you noticed me. I had to steal myself for the visit, fearing to look into the two familiar eyes of your bay windows without seeing my Dad looking back. But he is long gone now, and I found you so changed that the visit wasn’t as wrenching as I expected. You and all of your kin still face resolutely south as you have for nearly 100 years and while your bones are familiar, your face-lift is jarring. The people who claim you now – who mow your lawns, and dress you with tiles and paint – are not the humble multi-hued group I remember. Gone are the wobbly windows, rusting station-wagons, peeling paint, and unkempt gardens. It’s as if you are dressed for a party – something stiff, formal and exclusive. I paused for just a moment to wonder, would I like to be invited, to laugh and play and live here again? I knew my answer and walked on, a little sad but content. Gathering-up my memories, I looked away, through the arching maples of Wright Ave, to the green of High Park.

Habitation: 1976 – 1996

House bought for $76,000

House sold for: $350,000

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