Sunday morning I received an unwanted email.
It was a picture, from my brother, with the simple caption: “After 70 years, it is no more.”
The photo was of a pile of dirt… where our Edmonton home used to stand.
Mom and dad built the “big yellow house” on 111 Avenue in Edmonton when they moved there from Saskatchewan in 1950, to start a family.
The original house (so I’ve been told) had four bedrooms.
As the family grew, so too did the house.
By the time I arrived on the scene – the ninth of 10 children – the house had been renovated and expanded to include seven bedrooms.
It was the only home I knew, growing up.
Occasionally dad would tease mom about “upgrading,” but she would have none of it. The big yellow house was a big part of the family.
The backyard was used as a baseball diamond. (Dad always said he wouldn’t build a garage – it would be unfair to the kids.) The service road out front was where we challenged for the Stanley Cup throughout the winter, with our portable hockey nets… yelling “car” any time a neighbour had the audacity to interrupt play.
One by one, my older siblings moved on. Eventually, the garage was built.
I headed out into the world in my mid-teens – almost unheard of these days.
By the mid-80s, mom and dad were empty-nesters, but the thought of them ever leaving the house was unfathomable.
Dad died in 2006, leaving mom alone in that big house.
It took a lot of coaxing to get her out. “Where will you stay when you come to visit?” she would ask… heaven forbid we spend money on a hotel.
Once mom finally decided it was time to move on, she did what came as a surprise to nobody who knows her: she gave the house away. She gifted it to Edmonton Right At Home Housing Society.
She wanted to make sure the property was used to help those in need.
That was seven years ago. (Mom now lives with one of my brothers.)
I suppose I always knew Sunday would eventually happen. The amount of work needed to bring the house up to code made it unsustainable. I think the house still had the original wiring.
Still, it hurt to see that picture.
Sunday was spent calling my siblings, asking how they were, and offering condolences.
The memories still abound. My younger sister and I used to stack the sofa cushions up at each end of the homemade ping-pong table, so we could play ping-pong before we were tall enough to see over the net.
The family dinners… usually buffet style – and with a family of 10 kids, if you were late for dinner, you weren’t eating until breakfast.
Dad cooking on weekends: hot dogs on Saturday, before Hockey Night in Canada; Sunday morning bacon and eggs after church (usually with the priest joining us); and those Sunday evening barbecues. Oh, those barbecues. All the boys still try to emulate dad’s burgers.
The epic New Year’s Eve parties. I think every dignitary in Edmonton was at our place to ring in the new year. The parties were so good we would all return home for them, long after we had moved out. (Our beds were still available, if we needed them.)
A big part of my life was bulldozed last week in Edmonton.
But the memories remain.
Thanks for the memories, “old yellow.”
Terry Farrell is the editor of the Comox Valley Record