Back in May I visited my family near Edmonton. And I decided I wanted to see the places where I grew up and lived during my childhood and young adulthood. It was strangely depressing.
There were two houses and three schools that I visited. The first house was the one I lived in until I was fifteen. It was an older suburban area, middle class. The house looked small. Years ago, Dad had put in a small brick retaining wall across the lawn near the sidewalk with a little built up spot next to the driveway. My older sister’s boyfriend had backed up into it and knocked it off. My dad had put it back on all those years ago but not cemented it in. It still wasn’t cemented into place – I won’t tell you how many years that was, but it was a loooong time ago. The street looked Alice-in-Wonderland tiny, maybe because I had been so short for most of the time I lived there.
The elementary school I went to looked old and broken, the asphalt playground area strewn with asphalt debris and forgotten toys. It also looked much smaller than my memories. The portables were gone and the church next to it had converted to another denomination. It had been a Roman Catholic church attached to the school when I attended. I can still remember Sister Ryan telling me to stop fidgeting in my seat when we went to visit the church – had I never been in a church before?? I was seven years old. Sister Ryan scared the hell out of me but, looking back, she was a good woman who took me aside and taught me to read when I needed the help.
We then drove to the house where I lived from ages fifteen to twenty-two, when I finished university. It had been a rather posh area when we moved in. Now, the front yards were cluttered with dandelions, rioting amongst the new and dead grass. The street also looked smaller – probably because now people parked their cars in the street instead of their driveways. The yards were unkempt and messy – it was obvious that neither the yards, nor the houses had seen any upkeep or improvements since I left all those years ago. Now, it looked like people didn’t care about the high grass and the once beautiful houses. It looked destroyed and it slumped at its heels. I was disappointed, surprised and a little let down.
The places where I grew up did not match the vibrant memories I had. The places where I grew up were not what I expected. The places where I grew up no longer existed anywhere but in my mind.
Maybe I shouldn’t have gone back to see. Maybe I should have left well enough alone. Maybe it’s best to leave past homes alone. Let sleeping dogs lie. I was a little depressed after my visit to the past. It’s amazing how things tend to look good in retrospective inner mind context but so much different in reality. I guess I had romanticized the places where I grew up in some way. In my mind, the houses and areas were pristine and now…now they were run-down wrecks that had seen much better days.
A couple years ago, during a day in the summer after I left my ex, I went back to my former marital home. Just to see. My ex was probably at work. What I saw was expected but still depressing. This is where I had spent nine years of my life, not happy years, but years nonetheless. The yard was a mess with the grass and weeds growing to my knees, the foundation of the house was cracked even more. It looked like the ‘Trailer Park Boys’ had moved in. And that hurt too.
The places of my past are not happy places. They actually weren’t happy places when I lived in them but memory had given them a gloss of happy unreality.
I won’t visit those places again.