On August 8th of this year, our family home, my childhood home, was torn down to make way for another home for a retired couple.
I was gearing up for the emotional fallout that was to take a hold of me when it happened, but I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel much at all. Which made me think; maybe it’s not so much the actual place you grew up, but the memories of all the things you did there that make that place meaningful. But unlike the impermanent physical world of bricks and mortar, we take our memories, life lessons, and loves within us.
It was fairly easy to say goodbye for me because it had been years since I had lived there, and maybe also because I didn’t actually get to watch it being torn down like I imagined I would. I had missed that moment by an hour, having been at work, drove over at lunchtime to meet my mom and one of my sister’s at our old neighbor’s house, watching what was now a pile of broken plywood and rubble. It had only taken just an hour to knock down, chimney and all.
Up to the time it was sold, just my mom remained there for many years after my parent’s divorce and after my sisters and I left to go on our own ways across the lower mainland.
I was born in Canada, second generation on my mother’s side, in what was then Grace Hospital in Vancouver, now Women’s and Children’s Hospital. The same hospital my twin sisters were born, four and a half years before, when my family lived in Vancouver.
Prior to my birth, my parents had already moved to Richmond, their first home being one of those split levels common at the time.
In writing this piece, I had looked into some family artifacts I obtained after my grandma’s passing at nearly a hundred years of age; her bible, printed in Norwegian, gifted to her at her confirmation, some old family photos going back five generations, and an interesting book called Milestones and Memories 1900-1980, concerning the families that inhabited four small towns between Regina and Saskatoon, Sask.
In it is a brief story of my great grandparents’ immigration to North America. They were hardy farmer stock from a small island in Norway. Odne Swenson worked hard for other farmers at first in Iowa, then in Glenside Saskatchewan before he could finally purchase his own farm to raise his five children with his wife, Otelia Swenson.
My grandma moved out to Vancouver in 1952 with her three daughters after separating with her husband. He went east and she went west, following her sisters as they made it out of the prairies to BC one by one, leaving brother Alfred to work the farm.
Since the age of nine, mom grew up in the Riley Park area of Vancouver, attending John Oliver Secondary. She met and married my father in ’64. My Canadian roots on his side go just a bit farther, and come from the east, mainly Ontario. So, my whole extended family, cousins and all, are primarily from here now, spread out all over BC.