Home

Have you ever gone back to your childhood home and just stared at it? I know so many people that go home to the house they grew up and don’t even think about it. Their parents lived there all their life and it’s home’. 

I lived in a few homes in Sherwood Park and when my parents moved into the city, my mom asked if I was going to be home for Christmas dinner. I asked her if the new people would mind if we all showed up for dinner. Home didn’t feel like their new house because I didn’t live there. Home was the house on the hill. A lot of things are pointing me back to the nostalgic parts of my life. I don’t get out to Sherwood Park anymore. I was in there visiting a friend and decided I would take a tour of all the old places and see how they differ from my memory.

My first stop was my high school. It’s not a high school anymore, it’s now the school that was by the traffic circle and now it’s here. When I was in grade two I lived across the street from it and now there is a playground in the rugby field. My first thought was, huh, I wonder how many pet bones they dug up. That playground did not exist. There was an empty rugby field in its place. It was a pet cemetery for me and all our friends. we had funerals ALL THE TIME. Mostly for frogs and birds, sometimes worms, but there are a few hamsters and two puppies buried there, or were.

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Then I stopped at Great Oaks I. When we moved back here from the North West Territories this was the house I remembered. We didn’t live here long, just long enough to have a super fun summer with lots of friends. I am still friends with one of the fellows. We reconnected years later. Thanks Running Room!

From that house, we moved to Glen Allan and my next stop.

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I drove by my elementary school and jr high first. I met Jean Vanier and at the time I hadn’t the foggiest who he was. If you don’t know, here is some info. He spoke French and was very kind. I was sad to note a parking lot where the outdoor hockey rink used to be. But the trees and playgrounds all looked the same. I met some very nice humans here and two influential teachers, Mrs. Anderson and Mr. Gleason. I am still in touch with some old friends who I met here. Thanks Facebook!

My house looks very different. First off, all the trees my dad planted are gone. Secondly…what the heck is happening with the wood? My house had white roman columns and green shutters. There was a patio out front with a lawn swing. We sat out there every day after supper and rocked back and forth with my mom and dad. I loved that swing. My room was the window on the bottom left. That was where the swing was. I made a fortune babysitting in the neighbourhood and because I was a money miser, I never needed loans for university. Thanks Neighbours!

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I then went to my home when I was three. I remember the friends I met and became Danger Girl in that house. I connected with a friend at Smokey Lake Pumpkin fair, I first met her on this street. I loved everything about living here. There is a fish buried in that yard and ghosts living across the street, probably because the fish. This place is still beautiful and I would consider moving in today. Pretty great for a 50-year-old complex! The memories are stellar from here. Look how happy the door is? My room was the upper right window. I swear the fence is exactly the same. Thanks Greenwood Village!

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My grandparents, both sets, lived not too far away from this house. So I decided to stop by and see what their houses look like now that my grandparents are no longer there.

I learned to build kites that would lift your feet off the ground in that garage. This house used to have red cedar siding. That’s how I remember it. It was the original showhome in Sherwood Park – or rather Campbelltown. One owner for 60 bazillion years. I ate macaroni and drank coffee in that kitchen. It was home to a print shop and the house always smelled of ink and paper. It is still one of my favourite smells. Thanks Grandpa!

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This house is where I walked to every day after school. I would sit at the table and drink tea with my great-grandma. I had my fifth birthday party in that house. I watched a lot of football and learned football minutes are longer than real minutes. I learned you could either love the Eskimos or the Riders but you had to choose. Loyalty is important.  My great-grandma taught me to count to 100 and how to talk to children so they think they are special and important. I cry when I think about how wonderful she was to me. The house used to be brown. I swear I saw my gram walking up the steps in her blue Sunday best holding her cane as I stood there looking at that house. If that house came up for sale, I would consider buying it. Thanks Little Gram!

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Nothing has changed and everything has changed. It was fun strolling down memory lane. I should have brought my siblings. Next time.

 

Mister Roger and His Helpers

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Did you see the new trailer for A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood starring Tom Hanks? I did. I cried.

Did you see, Won’t you be my Neighbour? A documentary about Mister Rogers? I did. I cried.

I am surprised to see so many people happy and excited about this story and talk about Fred Rogers’ legacy. When I was a kid, people (adults and peers) called me a baby for watching it. I didn’t care. I watched it until I was 12. This was the first time I remember doing my own thing and not being influenced by others. I didn’t get influenced by people’s opinions until I was older, then I made the mistake of listening to people. That was stupid. I accepted really bad advice and it destroyed me. I have been working hard every day since to get me back.

When I was little, I mean LITTLE like three or four, my mom dropped me off at the childminders while she worked downstairs. I liked that I could see my mom whenever I wanted. I liked that I was free to go on imaginary adventures or go on errands with the adults looking after me. I liked having access to the red cookie tin in the cupboard. What I didn’t like was the teenager who was also there. He was mean. And by mean, I mean abusive. Verbally and emotionally, never physically. He called me stupid and ugly. He was angry all the time. He was scary. My brother and I were never rescued from him, we were told to ignore him, but what do little kids know about that? We learned to fight back. But those words of self-depreciation linger in the brain for decades. Mister Rogers rescued me.

PBS, channel 9 out of Spokane, played Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Zoom and Mister Rogers. I fell in love with Kermit the Frog and Super Grover, Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno, learned nifty facts and felt peaceful with Mister Rogers.

I cry thinking about how safe I felt with him and he was on TV – not even in the room. But the way he looked into the camera and directly at me, made me feel special. He told me I was special. He was deliberate with kindness and gentle words. I remember him talking about being scared and looking for helpers. When I was five and began kindergarten, I was able to go to my great grandmother’s home after school. She sat with me every day after school to hear about my day. She asked me questions to understand my story better. We had tea and digestive biscuits with cheese and sometimes peanut butter pirate cookies. But every time I was in her presence she would look me in the eye and make me feel special. The same way Mister Rogers did. Now I had two adults who told me I was special and I mattered. I can transport myself back into my ‘Little’ Gram’s kitchen in an instant. She had her spot at the large round table that no one ever sat in and I sat beside her. I can still smell Red Rose Tea steeping in the corning wear teapot. I remember looking out into the back yard and seeing the rusty old swing set. Later on, that window was covered up by a three-season addition and it made the kitchen dark, but it still felt the same.

Maya Angelou said once you forget the things people do but you always remember how they made you feel. Mister Rogers and Little Gram made me feel important and special. I think my Little Gram was one of Mister Rogers’ helpers.

Maya Angelou told Oprah once, “You will never know what your legacy is.” Mister Rogers’ knew he made a difference to children but the vast reach of his influence he never truly knew. If a little girl in a small town in Alberta was affected by him, imagine how far his reach was after decades of being on TV. I am sure it is infinite.

As an adult, I take the time to listen to kids and ask questions to understand the story better. I let people know they are special and they matter, especially to me. Knowing you matter is one thing, but knowing you matter to someone is extra special. I have become one of Mister Rogers’ Helpers. If you need me, I am here. If you are abusive, I wish you well and send you on your way because kindness matters.

Think about your words. You may think they are kind – but would you like them to be spoken to you? Kindness matters, it’s your legacy. You have no idea how many people you will touch that are influenced by your words. Thank you, Mister Rogers.

Flashback

Friday night I delivered some items to my old neighbourhood. When the woman gave me the address I became unusually excited. I dive by this neighbourhood occasionally, not frequently because I don’t have any reason to travel to Sherwood Park any longer, but every now and then it makes sense to use the facilities there. I lived out my childhood school years in Sherwood Park and while most of the time spent out there was not a happy time, there are pockets of wonderful scattered throughout. My parents provided my siblings and me great sheltered freedom to explore. I call it sheltered freedom because while it felt like we were alone and independent, they kept a watchful eye on our shenanigans.

Before my family moved to Yellowknife, we lived in a rental complex in the late 60’s/ early 70’s. This remains the best inclusive childhood memories where my imagination was rich and plentiful, the friends on the block matched my interests and there was very little influence from outside forces. I wasn’t fully aware of much other than things that focused on me. I was 2-5 years old.

This was the place where Danger Girl and I had interchangeable personalities. I was her and she was me. I wasn’t influenced by male superheroes to the point of I wanted to be them. I wanted to be my own superhero so I created her. She wore a cape and could fly. I would climb to the top of this shed that used to be 7 feet high. Now the same shed stands at 5 feet. Clearly, it shrunk over time.

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I remember my brother wanting to climb up with me, but I would never help him. My friend Tanya (who was also a Danger Girl) Sat on the roof with me while we waited for the help call to rescue citizens in peril. Once the call came, we flew off towards the woods. DEEP in the forest, we would rescue the Ghost family and their daughter Lucy. Lucy was my invisible pal (only seen by me) until I moved to Yellowknife. She didn’t move with me but stayed in Sherwood Park, close to her sister.

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I remember driving into Edmonton for Dairy Queen night in our pajamas and watching Bugs Bunny and eating Kraft Mac and Cheese while my parents got ready to go out. We had a closet on the stair landing that was filled with toys, but mostly I played with crayons, puzzles, Fischer Price Little people and my cape.

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My room was the top right window, my brother’s was in the centre. It was simple and in my mind idyllic. Often I take myself back to that time when my friend Tanya lived across from me and my other friend Tammy live down the way. We learned to ride bikes, skip and build forts. On rainy days we would listen to records and build inside forts.

When I had my kids I wanted the same childhood for them. They played outside all the time with neighbour kids and were covered in mud. They still laugh with their childhood friends when they see them. I recently reconnected with Tammy who lived down the block. An incredible gift because the old memories resurfaced. Old memories remembered while my family is making new ones. The perfect Family day experience. *Disclaimer* I remember in vivid colour but the photos are edited because it was dark as pitch – so everything looks sepia just like old-timey photos should.

Happy Family Day from mine to yours.

 

Childhood Revisited: Burn the evidence or use spray paint

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We all had that friend/sibling/pet (insert someone here) as a child who gave you a plethora of humorous stories to tell while you are sitting around a table/campfire/car trip with friends. They left you with the kind of stories that bring tears to your eyes or left an inside joke to tell for years. WordPress has offered up the Daily Prompt called Childhood Revisited to share the story.

Last week I was talking to someone who had asked me about my childhood. I revealed that I had moved 13 times before I was in grade 3. They asked me if I thought I had an awful childhood. Are you kidding me? I had an AWESOME childhood! I had Aunties that treated me like a princess, Grannies that spoiled me rotten, parents who took me to Disneyland…a LOT, and a brother who was my pal, my minion and a terrorist.

You may think having a terrorist for a brother was a bad thing. Not necessarily. It’s not like he killed anyone (that he would admit to) nor was he evil. He was the sort of fellow that thought everything bad was a good idea, as in LETS TRY IT OUT! If it was tame, he always replied with “Pffffff, I can do that but it’s too easy.” When we watched Ripley’s believe it or not or In Search of.. He usually said “That is so fake”. But he believed in Aliens and the Supernatural. Scientific stuff, not so much.

He is 1.5 years younger than me. We like the same things and got into the same trouble. We spent 99% of our childhood grounded. He was the best blackmailer on the planet and more stubborn than anyone I know. My kids often ask for Uncle stories. Now that they are old enough to know better, I will share this one.

My brother had the coolest room EVER. It had Star Wars wallpaper on every wall, his bed sported matching sheets and comforter. He had all the best toys from Star Wars action figures to Steve Austin the Bionic Man. THe best part about his room was the bed. It was a Captian’s Bed. the mattress was on a raised platform high above the floor with 3 drawers and 2 shelves underneath. Often we would play under his bed. Behind the drawers was space. It seemed huge, I think back now and it must have been only  a small narrow space, but to us it was a fort. Large enough for any adventure either with or without the action figures. We usually wore a cape and rubber boots for obvious reasons.

I sometimes had a sleep-over in his room on a Friday night. We would squish together and sleep under his bed. Sometimes we told ghost stories and he would share his experiences with The Hand or The Blue lady, ghosts that visited him regularly. One night, I said out loud, “I wish we could have a campfire.” My brother looked at me and ran out of the room. I figured he was going to ‘tell on’ me, like the snitch he usually was. But he didn’t. He went outside to the side of the house and brought in wood chips. He placed them on his carpet in a pile. I looked at him questionably, and he said “I took dad’s lighter.” I said wait until I get back.

I ran up stairs to the kitchen and grabbed a pie tin, the lysol can and a glass of water – you know Safety First! Then I returned. I suggested we put the wood chips in the pie tin so the carpet doesn’t get wrecked. “You know how mom gets” then he tried lighting the wood chips. The chips wouldn’t burn. So, me being the brainiac of the bunch, I suggested we use the lysol as a torch. I sprayed the can and he ignited the spray with the lighter. Before long we had those wood chips burning – under the bed. We sang a few songs and told a story but the smoke was really bad. I was scared mom would smell it so I said we should put it out before she gets mad. Luckily I thought ahead and brought water!

Well…the water didn’t work so my brother ran to get more. 5 cups later the room was FILLED with smoke and we were in danger of being grounded AGAIN. I opened up the window – of course it was the middle of a Canadian Winter and the window was FROZEN shut. My brother thought we should use the lysol torch to thaw it. It worked like a charm except we noticed scorch marks on the window frame. MOM WAS GOING TO KILL US! We finally rid the room of smoke. I tried washing the scorch marks but it was no use. We needed to paint. Luckily for us my brother had a closet full of model spray paint but the labels were messed up with different colours. It was hard to tell which colour was in each can. We needed white.

My brother grabbed a can and sprayed it in the air – black. Wrong colour. The next can he sprayed in the air – white, SCORE! We carefully painted the window sill and cleaned up our mess. I sprayed the room with the remains of the lysol so no one would be the wiser. We noticed the time and quickly jumped into bed – dad was about to check on us for the night.

Moments later, Dad opened the door and said, “Lights out, good night.” Phew…we made it.

In the morning we were up watching Saturday morning cartoons when my mom called us. We looked sheepishly at each other and wandered into my brother’s room where she stood in the middle of the floor looking at the ceiling. “What is that black mark on the ceiling?” CRAP it was a black spot from spraying the paint in the air to see what colour it was. We both shrugged our shoulders and said in unison, “I don’t know” and we slunk away back to the family room to finish watching The Justice League.

I look back on that adventure and sometimes think “WOW we could have DIED.” But sometimes I think, “There is NOTHING my kids could do that I have not done.” But mostly I think, “I am thankful to have gone through my childhood with my brother.”

Love you lots Dumbdumbuglyandsmell

What am I going to use that Klondike Dollar for now?

Dressed and ready for the Klondike Promenade

Today is the last day of my summer vacation. No one cares? That is okay, I am well rested and excited about heading back to work. This summer I set a goal for myself. Happily I achieved it! It was my intent that I would attend as many Edmonton Festivals as possible. Edmonton has a bit of a reputation for being Festival City. All year-long, right here in River City, there are many fantastic festivals and some that are just meh. This Summer I was able to attend 9. That meant heading out every weekend and trying something new. I went with family and friends, or brought my children and I even went solo on occasion.

It was an import goal for me because I didn’t want to waste my summer. In years past, I have over planned my vacation, enjoyed every minute during the usual 10 days away, then came home a floated in the pool. It sounds much more glamorous than it really is. My pool is a 32″ deep wadding pool. Just big enough for me to float on an air mattress, have my standard issue beverage with paper umbrella perched on the side, and read one book or more a week. Last summer it was 15 books. This summer it was 2.

Now if you have read my past blogs dear reader, then you know that I don’t consider reading to be a waste of time. But I always felt I could do more with my days other than clean and organize my linen closet. Don’t get me wrong, I did that too, but I wanted to explore this great city I live in. And I did that.

When I was small, Edmonton didn’t have as many festivals, but the ones we had were so amazing! The biggest and Best was called Klondike Days. I know you are thinking – the Klondike was in the Yukon not Edmonton! True. Edmonton was known as the “gateway to the Klondike” the Alaska highway is just down the road and for the longest time Edmonton was the last major city to get supplies before heading north. So that’s how we called it Klondike Days.

Klondike Days had 10 days of bizarre and fun activities as well as a midway. There was everything from Bathtub races down Jasper Avenue to the Sourdough Raft races on the North Saskatchewan River. Sunday was the Promenade. Jasper Avenue would close down for the afternoon and people would dress up in their Klondike finery and stroll dawn the street parading around like peacocks with feathers in the lady’s hair and straw hats on the gents heads. Thinking about it now seems unbelievable that people would take the time and effort to do this. Shop owners would paint their store windows with Klondike themed pictures, the city would use Klondike dollars for currency during the 10 days.

The year I was 4, my mom made matching pink Klondike dresses and hand bags for me, her sister and herself. I felt like a princess! We went downtown and walked with the hundreds of other people in their Klondike attire. Stopping to look at booths set up for the street fair. People would stop and compliment us on our gowns. I loved every minute of it! If you weren’t dressed up there was a chance that you would be thrown into the Klondike jail and would have to be bailed out. That terrified  me, so I was secretly glad we had the pretty pink dresses.

I couldn’t be bothered with all of that costuming now, and I am sure no one else can either, which is largely the reason for the festival to be changed in the first place. Now it is just Capital Ex. A non descriptive midway carnival with not a lot of other things going on during that week. Thankfully there are other festivals with flair and flash that make festival season here fun.

I am thankful that my mom thought it was important to get out and explore the world where you live. It has brought a richer sense of community into my life and I appreciate home after traveling. It makes me feel like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, “There’s No Place Like Home”. I am trying to bring that sense to my children and hope they carry fun and crazy memories with them into their adult lives.

This summer I learned that to be a tourist in your own life, you really need to take the time to get to explore and discover your surroundings in order to better understand your personal journey.