“It’s so much smaller than I remember!” was overheard again and again as we five sisters toured our childhood home.
The family matriarch awoke one morning weeks before our annual Christmas get together with a brilliant idea! She wanted to organize a family visit to our old home that my father had built 65 years ago. She helped raise his seven children in the 40 years that we lived in that house.
The new owners of the house cautiously agreed to the idea. Little did they know that there were 22 of us gathering at our mother’s Kensington apartment that day! Only twelve of us actually toured the family home.
The memories came flooding back the minute we stepped through the front door. We were tripping all over ourselves reminiscing about this and that and all the good times. There were sad memories as well which were acknowledged and gently released.
The most impressive feature of the house was the sunken living room with an entire wall of windows overlooking downtown Montreal. Opposite the windows was a spectacular floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace where many a family photo was taken over the years. The mantelpiece, however,was still annoyingly off centre! The walls echoed with years of children’s dress-up performances and lively after dinner family games of charades and fruit basket.
The dining room was the scene of more than a hundred birthday parties over the years. We would march around the table singing and bearing gifts for the celebrant. There are tons of photos depicting this very special family tradition .
Sunday nights we watched the Walt Disney movie on the 12″ black and white TV with supper. Sometimes we would have lemon and sugar roll-up pancakes or for a very special treat Chalet BBQ chicken dinner was ordered in and devoured.
We all remember the delicious roasts (and legendary roast potatoes) for Sunday lunch after church. Somehow the table stretched to include old aunties and uncles or grandparents who would join us. “Dad would methodically carve the roast but we could not wait to eat. I doubt he ever actually enjoyed his dinner as we always clamoured for gravy bread (bread dipped in the meat juices) and seconds.”
The kitchen had been completely renovated (although our stove was still in use!) but it didn’t deter our memory of Dad sitting on his stool at the end of the counter with his water jug from Vermont, eating his healthy breakfasts. On the kitchen wall behind him was the family bulletin board dotted with scraps of important notices and a handmade birthday calendar.
We delighted in seeing the original wood floors and doors, the built-in cabinetry and the bannister (since reinforced). The glass door knobs on the doors throughout the house stood out although I never remember giving them a second thought growing up. The wood floor in the upstairs hall triggered giddy memories of running and sliding the entire length of the hall in stocking feet.
Thanking our hosts, with a promised donation to a homeless shelter, we strolled back to the Kensington apartment to join the others. “Upon entering the crowded apartment, we were greeted with the delightful smell of roast lamb dinner and we knew we were home”.
Photo: 3170 St. Sulpice Road, Montreal, Quebec – The house my father built in 1952.