Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Thoughts: The Call Of the Chickadee...



I recently took my two boys on a virtual tour of my childhood via Google Streetview. I was Facebook chatting away with a girl whom I have never met but who inspires me on a regular basis with her posts on everything from hazelnut butter-cream icing, to Kiss Me in the Park parties, to her latest published piece on fun wedding ideas. Anyhow, she seems worlds apart from my life, and yet not. She had noticed that my FB profile was updated to show where I grew up, and it turns out she grew up in the same neighbourhood. Well, she corrected, a smaller community quite close to that neighbourhood... and from there we had one of those "...really? Me too!" conversations where we realized that we had actually lived down the street from each other as teens (OK, I was a teen, she was probably a toddler). She said her house had been demolished in the development frenzy that has plagued the area over the last decade, and I had to laugh because the house that was built in its stead is one that my father (who now rents out the home I lived in) refers to as the bane of the neighbourhood because it has a tower with what looks like plaster bum reliefs around the top. It definitely stands out. Well, of course I had to then show my sons the house I was laughing about... which led to a cross-BC Streetview Tour of my life.

the "Bum House"

Crescent Parish
What is funny about having children, is that you find the same things coming out of your face as you heard when you were young. Except now instead of being without context, they make absolutely perfect sense and come with weighted meaning that you know is falling on deaf ears. I tried in vain to draw a visual picture of what "life was like" growing up in a beach town with tidal pools for playgrounds and knowing every single neighbour right up to the bakery six blocks away. I was immediately taken back to the world where my mother had already been informed of my daily excursions before I was even off my bike and walking through the door for dinner... and if I was in the bakery, she was most likely on the phone with "Carol" letting her know that she should remind me to pick up the bread as well as the fritter that I was after. They enjoyed the stories, but relating to them was a different thing entirely.




Crescent Beach had the best sunsets
Something happened though when we got to the view of the home I was a child in. It looks the same, nearly, although some moron went and stuccoed over the cedar siding that had covered the entire house and in my day the paved area in front was actually two massive cedars that were homes to bats and squirrels. At the end of the seventies, when my father built it (and I do mean that he built it, not that he had it built,) it was absolutely the best of the best, with beams running throughout that were pretty much entire trees... the brickwork was painstakingly done around the stove and oven... and I remember how proud he was of the marble countertops and the RED sink and dishwasher that my mother had asked for. Nothing makes me more proud than when I talk about that house and the attention to detail that he put into it. (Disclaimer: my children are, of course, exempt from this particular sentence.) I know he was not an easy man to live with, I inherited his bizarre need for perfection in the strangest places, but lack of interest in areas that most people find important. The first thing that that house means to me though, is that it was his way of expressing his love for his family. That house was everything he thought a father, the provider, was meant to be, and he tried as hard as he could to make it perfect. It ended up shaping much of who I am today, and I can trace back so many of my interests and values directly to things I learned both while it was being built, and also how we lived in it.

My (slightly altered) childhood home.

The second, and more important thing that that house meant to me, as beautiful as it was, was that it was truly a home. There was a feeling of lightness and security that came with being a child there. We had the beach out front and the most amazing forested hill in the back that was home to bald eagles, ringneck pheasants who nested right outside the back window, and a family of raccoons that would come down the hill whenever we had a barbeque. The house was literally built into the grade so when you looked out the back windows, you were nose to beak with the pheasants and stellar jays, and there was a dead tree at the top that I liked to think was the tower to some sort of fairy castle.



My sister and I shared a large room at the front of the house that had a bubble skylight big enough to sit in and feel like we were at the top of the world looking down on the teeny people on the road. When I was lucky enough to earn my own bedroom at the back of the house, I inherited a small triangle shaped window that let in the glow of the Christmas lights during winter months and when it snowed (which it used to do back then) the glow would be reflected throughout the room. What I loved most about my childhood was found in that bedroom. Spring and summer mornings would greet me with dappled sun filtering through the huge leaves of the many maples that would reach out from the hill and the most beautiful sound in the world (other than perhaps the laughter of children), the orchestra of the songbirds would be the first thing I heard every morning. To this day, the sound of the chickadees singing brings me a feeling of peace and serenity that I don't find anywhere else. It makes me ponder what kind of life I am giving to my own children and most importantly, how they see things vs how I, as an adult see them.


It could be argued that I had a certain degree of turmoil in my childhood. My mother was discovering her strength as a woman and didn't like the role of homemaker. My father, a traditionalist wanted her at home baking cookies and tending her brood. They didn't fight often, but looking back it is easy to see the tension that was found in daily life there. I was raised "properly". I took ballet, happily wore black patent shoes, and knew which fork was used for which dish, was best in my french classes and had very good grades as a child. I was polite and I knew right from wrong... and none of that seems to matter now. Of course I am a better person for it, I know that. My point is though, that the things we are teaching our children, the things that we deem important as adults, should of course be taught. Just don't expect those things to be the most important things in their lives and their thoughts. My boys suddenly tuned in when I started to talk about the leaves, and the birds, and making forts in the ravine. The tidal pools were far more interesting to them when it was the anemones we spoke about, not the importance of protecting natural spaces and how they just aren't the same anymore because of all the pollution yadda yadda...


The protection of natural spaces is so important to me because I spent my childhood immersed in them instead of watching TV. Detail is important to me because I was able to experience the end result of hard work and love of process. Etiquette is important to me because I experienced what it was like to attend the symphony in my black patent shoes and I got a feel for what it is like to be involved in a cultural event where rude is simply not involved, and polite was part of the whole. Of course my father would go into his spiel of "I don't want to see any blah blah blah" every single time. But once I had seen what was meant by it, he didn't have to repeat himself. Not often at least.

I was very lucky to have the childhood I had. I have been very lucky to live the life I have led. And the most important thing I think that I can now teach my boys in an age of such craziness is to just keep it all in perspective. Sometimes life is tough, but there is always something to be thankful for. I think it all boils down to stopping to smell the lilacs, dipping your toes into the tidal pools when you come across them... and of course, Zen-ing out to the chickadees.


This post is part of my involvement in a Blog-O-Sphere Think Tank... we all visit the same topic and post on it on the 20th of each month. Please visit the other participants blogs and spread the blog love in comments!

8 comments:

Andes Cruz said...

I really enjoyed your post Andrea!

Karen Wallace said...

Beautiful writing Andrea. Hugs Karen

Wendy Kelly said...

Wow, Andrea. Thank you so much! Quite inspiring to get to know you.

mysticalmythicalmetalwork said...

Wow Andrea, what a wonderful post. Your writing and feelings shared took me back to some aspects of my childhood home too. I thank you for that. My mom & dad built the home I grew up in and I know I inherited some of their uniqueness too.

Thanks for stopping by my blog too. Andes had a great idea and a wonderful way for all of us to become acquainted with other creative spirits.

~ Kathleen Krucoff

Laura Flavin said...

Wow Andrea. I enjoyed reading you post very much. You painted an amazing picture of your childhood home and what it was like to live there & what the hard work, beautiful craftsmanship and dedication of your father meant to you. I was inspired by your thoughtfulness in relating your ideas about growing up to your children and their experience. ~Laura
ps....Miami has changed a great deal since I was a kid, but it still retains its beauty :)

Beth Cyr said...

what a beautiful and thoughtful post - and yes, an amazing house! striving for perfection... yes, I remember that....

Artizan said...

Ahhhh, brought a tear to my eye.

Kait said...

It was an amazing place to grow up for sure! Thank you for this beautiful post! A very magical lush part of the world -- I will never forget living there and I can't wait to go visit this summer. :)