The other day I decided to "Google Earth" my favorite house on Vancouver Island, et voila! there it was. This is the house where I have my happiest memories. It was quite a large house, but fairly modest, in a modest neighborhood. I believe houses can have spirits, and our house had a good spirit. I could feel it. Somehow, that house felt like summer all the time, and my memories of it are of the sun shining through the windows. It had a big cozy kitchen, a wonderful living room with a fireplace, and four bedrooms -- two on the main floor and two upstairs. My two older brothers had the rooms upstairs, and I was not allowed -- under any circumstances -- to go up there. My brothers kept me away by telling me there were spiders the size of dinner plates up there. It worked -- I stayed away.
My mother, who was a wizard at interior decorating, made the house into a beautiful home. We had a formal dining room, but no dining room table. So my father felled a pine tree, had the wood planed, and built a beautiful pine dining room table -- all with dowels, no nails. My mother painted the dining room forest green and on the walls she put botanical paintings of flowering cacti, framed in the same pine wood as the table. The sideboard and hutch had belonged to my grandparents, and my mother painted them off-white and then painted ivy growing across them. It was all done free-hand, and it was beautiful. I remember family dinners at that table, and they were always sort of raucous, with my two brothers regaling us with stories of their high school teachers. Their stories of Miss Ormrod the librarian were my favorites.
All of my friends lived in the neighborhood -- Barbara, Naida, Larry, Sonia, Billy, Joyce, Harry, Bonnie ... and so many more. We were free to roam the countryside, and we spent all our time outdoors, swimming, riding our bikes, exploring the forest. The boys taught the girls how to whistle through our teeth, how to do arm farts, how to climb trees, and all the other wonderful things that boys know how to do. Unfortunately, as we got older and realized we were different from each other, we grew apart. But for the time being it was an age of innocence, and a wonderful place in which to grow up.
The back yard was on a slope, so my mother built a rock garden out there, and it was filled with nasturtiums and all sorts of colorful flowers. The unusual thing about the rock garden is that it was built with petrified dinosaur bones my father had collected in the Alberta Badlands. I wonder if the rock garden is still there, and if the current owners of the house have any idea what those rocks are. Probably not.
For some reason, I have been thinking about that house lately -- I suppose because it was such a carefree time in my life. As I said before, the world of possibilities was still open to us, and we had no idea what life held in store. Life is such a mosaic of wonderful things -- and some not so wonderful -- I guess it is fortunate that we don't have the ability of prescience. Sometimes it is when we are at our happiest that the most calamitous things are just around the corner. That's when the gift of memory can take us back to a sunny afternoon.
I hope you are out there, making some wonderful memories.