Last weekend, I was in London. I was visiting my Omi, and before I jumped on the highway to drive back home, I took a drive through town. I don’t know why I did. I just felt compelled to drive through the heart of the city.
I drove past the horrible downtown core. And then continued up King Street. I passed the housing co-op I lived in with Connor. The place where I lived for four years. The four years that taught me that anything is possible. That no matter how tough things seem, you can ALWAYS make it work.
It is an area of London I want to go back to with my camera. The dreaded East of Adelaide area. I would love to walk around and explore. See and feel and remember. It has been 10 years since we lived there, and looking at it now, it was a horrible place to live. I never noticed it though. I was too wrapped up in my pride. Too wrapped up in making sure I could provide for my son.
From there I continued along King Street. Past the strip club. Past the street formerly known as Glebe Street. Past the empty lot where the little grey cottage style house with pink accents used to sit. Past so many lots that used to hold houses.
In recent years, the Western Fair Association has been buying all the properties surrounding them. These homes are being torn down to create additional parking. In fairness, many of these houses were in poor condition.
Every time I drive more homes are gone. But, the stuff that has been true to my childhood and memories still stands. My Opi’s shop, and the house I grew up in. The old Farrow Insurance building that was beside us. They have always been there.
This time was different though. This time when I drove by, my heart stopped. Our house was gone. Where it used to sit were two machines of mass destruction. Big, yellow and mean. The very claws that ripped the home I grew up in apart.
Behind them was a huge pile of rubble. The remains of Kruger’s Auto. My Opi’s shop. All my memories of my Opi and my Dad had always been protected in the walls of these buildings. A physical connection to two people who are gone who meant so much to me.
I pulled my car around, jumped out and started walking up the laneway that connected the shop to the road. As I did, I fought the tears. I’m not sure if it was shock or true mourning, but it hurt. It hurt to look at, it and it hurt breathe.
In a moment of desperation, I decided to gather bricks from the rubble. Three bricks. One for me, one for Kari, and one for Christopher. This was their childhood too. I had to have a piece to hold onto. An ugly concrete piece of jagged brick. The very last piece of the buildings that stood so proud and meant so much to me.
Then, I got the boys and we did an circle tour of the grounds.
We walked up the laneway. The one that reminds me of the winter. The cold, cold mornings when the potholes froze over and Kari and I would crunch and stomp the ice as we walked to school. What a brilliant sound.
A little further up, I can remember across that laneway was Davey’s house. A friend from my childhood. I can’t remember much about him, but I know he visited his Dad, In the summer we played on the Wet Banana Slide on our front lawn. Davey who I am sure took a chunk out of his knee on that slide.
On the other side of the laneway there used to be Lilac bushes. Light purple heaven. Sweet and amazing. My favorite part of the Spring. The flowers we always picked for my Mom. She must of been happy every year when Lilac season was over.
We walked around the front. I remember sitting on the front porch, watching the fair every September. The same front lawn we parked cars on. I remember telling random strangers about my September 15th birthday. It always fell in the 9 days the fair ran. I remember eagerly watching the carny’s set up the rides.
I showed them the sidewalk I ran my Barbie Traveller Motorhome up and down. And the road. That section of King Street was famous for flooding during rainstorms. I’m certain there were times we would “swim” in the water.
We walked around the Farrow Insurance Building next store. It still stands, but will likely be gone by the next time I return. It is abandoned (except for what I assume are squatters) and the windows are busted out. In all the time we lived there, I don’t think I ever was inside.
Around the back is the parking area for Farrow. Where we always rode our bikes. Around and around. Under and up. Perfect for kids on a weekend. Perhaps a little ironic, because it was an insurance company. Imagine how many rules that would be breaking today.
We then circled back to where we started. At the shop. I close my eyes and I can see how the inside was laid out. I can remember seeing Opi in the office after school. I smell the horrible odour of the paint bay at the back of the shop. The very same odour I find oddly comforting today. I ever remember the bathroom in that little shop.
Of course, I took pictures. Hoping to find some comfort and beauty in the destruction. I cannot believe how much the loss of these buildings hurts. It is like a huge chunk of my childhood has been ripped away. I still have the memories though. The same ones Kari and Christopher will have too.
Barbie gymnastics with the bunk beds and drying rack • Riding our bikes at the fair grounds around the hydro building (it too is gone) • Catching Christopher falling head first from the top bunk • The unstable balcony off the back bedroom we were not allowed on • Playing in the back yard inside of the large dog house we had • The huge walk in closet in the front bedroom • The ugly brown wagon wheel like wall paper in our dining room • The french doors • Sitting on the stairs look down through the rails • The HUGE red shelf that held all the toys in the basement • The snow drifts that we got against the Farrow Insurance building • The big metal window area for the basement windows at Farrow • Jenna babysitting “The Krugers” • Picking raspberries from a house up the street • Killer’s cage • Decorating Christmas cookies in the dining room • Getting our first microwave • The day Leah was born • Cleaning the house for Mom’s homecoming after Patrick was born (This included bathing a dog in a tub outside with a hose and cold water)
I could go on and on. I hope Kari and Christopher will add to these memories too.
I took the picture below in 2007. Before Kruger’s Auto was sold. The brown house was ours. It never really changed in looks. Also, notice the Lilacs beside the shop.