When I was a kid, one of my favourite books was Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. I read it several times over and even had the audio cassette. In fact, this book is probably what got me started on journaling. The problem is, I never really knew what to write about. My life didn’t seem quite so interesting enough, so I used writing as a outlet for emotional rage and sadness. Even now as my floral paper notebooks have retired into cardboard boxes, replaced by publicly critiqued blogs, I only write when something bothers me. But today I’m going to try something different. Today I’m simply going to tell you about a memory – a memory about a small Southern Ontario town that I haven’t been back to in nearly a decade.
We lived in a really old house that resembled something of a yellow barn. There was an elevated porch painted beige, with a flower bed in front of it lined with stones made from a mixture of pebbles and concrete. Mom planted ivy and blue bells there. A pipe used for connecting fire truck hoses stuck out of the front lawn – something we always had to watch out for when we mowed the grass. You might be able to imagine, it looked like any other old fashioned house with a picket white fence… except our picket fence was in the back. And it wasn’t white.
The interior of the house wasn’t any more glamorous than the outside. The living room was adorned with pink carpet and a set of expensive French cabinets, while the dining room was painted a tacky forest green. The kitchen was wallpapered with shiny yellow flowers. The floors corresponded in an equally yellow and blue tile pattern.
I remember sitting in our navy Lazy-Boy in the summer with the window open. I was wearing a frilly yellow sun dress, no doubt a gift from my grandmother who loved buying clothes. Mum was making pork dumplings in the kitchen while Luke, our huge tabby cat, watched atop a white plastic stool. Matthew, our other slightly autistic cat, hid in the basement behind the washing machine as he did everyday.
I remember the big willow tree branches swinging in the summer breeze, listening to the light tinkering of wind chimes hanging off the back porch. The old neighbour across the street, her white hair always tied up in a neat French twist, opened her door to feed the stray cats. Dad walked in carrying a big plastic box – the most modern of 1996 video camcorders. It was time to get some footage for our family VHS.
Back in those days, it was a beautiful town – artistic and friendly. With the downturn in the economy though, it has become somewhat of a ghetto. Colourful houses have turned brown and flowers have been overtaken by weeds. Paint peels on our old yellow house as it sits empty and unloved. It looks faded and sad. That sunny, peaceful place is only a memory now, as the street becomes inhabited by single moms on welfare support, and haunted by the ghosts of those who once called this place their home.