YOU MUST REMEMBER ME. I WAS YOUR FIRST BABY. MY family your first inhabitants.
At the end of the block, before the woods…there you stood.
It was the 70’s in small town Sault Ste Marie in Northern Ontario. Developers were beginning to plow through the bushes to build new subdivisions. Ours was called the “P patch” (all of the roads began with the letter P) and in that patch I lived on Placid.
Those woods to me, as a young child, were a place to frolic and become lost. Through the trees we would traverse to the top of a great hill called “Finn Hill”. Trampling in the winter with crazy carpets and toboggans in tote, this great white northern hill was our winter. Year after year, trick after trick, frostbite after frostbite…you would always find us on that hill. And as I grew older, the party changed. The hill is where I first learned to ski, had my first skidoo ride, where I first got high and where I met my best friend night after night to talk about our “homework” or borrow a “crayon” (i.e. Have a cigarette)
Dear old home on Placid Avenue, things were never really placid when we lived there, were they? Inside your small semi-detached abode lived our big fat Italian family. Being the youngest of seven and only a baby, I spent a fair bit of time crashing in my parent’s room. But where did the other 6 sleep? Indeed it was tight under your roof, but I always felt like I had enough space. Year after year the older ones ran off to college or married, leaving me with my own bedroom.
Yes we were crammed.
So what did we do?
We made you bigger and better in the great Italian fashion. Starting with the basement of course.
You had an unfinished basement when we moved in, but when my dad and uncles were through, your floors were beautiful albeit cold ceramic tiles. Next they proceeded to put a kitchen in that basement next to the laundry and added a cantina to store the homemade wine, meats, cheeses and all of our groceries.
In the backyard my dad built a shed plus two large vegetable gardens.
Of all of these additions, I loved that shed the most. In the winter, my neighbourhood friends and I would jump off the roof into a fluffy white bed of snow. And repeat until it was time for dinner. Inside that little shack of a shed, my dad kept all of his trinkets and hand made tools and projects. I loved snooping around in there. I’d shut the door and bask in the smell of the wood and the old metals. This old shack meant nothing to my 6 siblings. To me, it was my hideaway. I felt closer to my dad there… While he was still alive and even after he was gone. He built anything he could out of wood and metals in that there shed. Did you happen to discover any of these handmade relics? My mother may have left something after her move.
I wish I could smell the inside of that shed right now.
During my last visit to the Sault, I was relieved to see that the shed is still standing.
But gone are the two huge gardens that, for so many years, my parents of the old country would cultivate their sacred tomatoes amongst many other Italian staples. Nothing to raid. Perennially gone.
Worse then that, when I saw you last I noticed that your milk-box had been nailed shut. I mean who would do that to you? While yes, having a small portal on the side of your house did pose security issues, it was super cool. I used that open box many times to break into my house if I forgot my keys. All you do is open the milk-box door, put your arm through it and reach around to unlock the door from the inside of the house. Not just for emergencies, the best part of having that milk-box would be opening it to find surprises left from friends.
I do miss you house. I had many happy memories growing up there. And whenever I go to the Sault, I am compelled to do a drive-by. For me, it is like being able to see my dad again when I look at you. Tell me…. do you ever see him or feel him? Is he still there with you now???