Same house several ways

I’m noticing that memoir involves two kinds of investigation. One concerns “facts”: research in various sources for context as well as gathering memories. Two concerns meaning. It probes at memory with a present-day eye to patterns, to who I was then and how I was shaped.

For example, on the left, a photo from my father’s slide collection of the house (near Linden, Alberta) where I lived between four and eight, the only photo I have of it but a solid truth. It was the church parsonage, built into a hill, with a garage beneath, and I know from what I was told and from the evidence of church minutes that it was small and inadequate, especially for a large family (four, and then five, children there with two parents).

Since I’ve been trying to see better via sketching, I copied the house. As I looked closely in order to draw it I was delighted to spot the childhood wagon. And I was intrigued by the milk cans on the porch. The milk cans and signs of construction raised questions for which I have no answers. (I believe the house was eventually blue-grey.)



ScanBut, closing my eyes, remembering deep inside…. What was this place in my young life? What did it “feel like”? That house never seemed small, even if for lack of bedrooms I slept on the sofa. It felt cozy, happy, secure. It had music: huge reels pouring The Messiah into the air or the choir carolling outside at Christmas. It’s where Mom read us books and I got hooked on story. It set my default for beauty in the natural world: rolling prairie and sky. I see and represent that house (using watercolour paints) in simple lines, in joyful colour.


14 thoughts on “Same house several ways

  1. I LOVE this post. I just did a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for thirty Creative Writing Students from the University of Winnipeg. I was asked to talk about the link between art and writing as we looked at the various art works. Wish I’d had this post to share with them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Marylou! I suspect your involvement at the WAG also stimulates your creativity and writing. Last week I happened to be in Seattle and visited their art gallery; it’s just so wonderful to be surrounded by it. (I should do it more!)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a lovely post, Dora. Both visually & word-wise: moving from an “actual” slide/photograph of your childhood home, to the nicely done sketch, followed by that joy-filled coloured “castle” surrounded by music, created in your memory. Together, they convey that wonderful interplay between the board & brick homes we lived in as children, and the love (or in sadder cases, lack of love?) we experienced there which tell the true story. — Makes me want to do a similar story of my childhood home.. Leona

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  3. Loved this memory piece Dora. Yes, it was a big house complete with an outdoor john where our brother John could do vertical pushup with his feet sticking into the abyss below, and another place where a brother Vic or Norm spilled an entire pail of Rogers syrup one day. (I probably have more recent photos of this castle.)

    And I may have mentioned before that Isabel Allende’s “My Invented Country” defines for me how memories and history should be written.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Dora. Great piece. Thanks for stirring my memories. I lived in a farm house until I was 10 years old and then we moved. I remember asking my mother why we had to move. Among other reasons, she also stated the house was too small. I argued with her at that time saying it was the right size for us. Years later, as an adult, we went to take a look at that house again. It was so very small but with a child’s eyes I never realized that. She was right and I had argued with a vengeance. I did not want to move.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great idea to “see better via sketching.” I’m going to try that. Your post about houses took me back to a German children’s song my mother used to sing about an apple being like a little house with many rooms, and the little brown seeds were the inhabitants.
    We are just returning from our Ontario trip. We spent happy hours with our four grandchildren, enjoying their enthusiasm about life.j

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Elfrieda, and I’ll probably always think of this now when I eat an apple! (UBC just put on apple event, more varieties being brought in and developed all the time — like the good diversity in our communities!)


  6. I always find it so fascinating to hear stories about this family to which I belong but parts of that family history to which I have no identification, knowledge or part! The joys of large families….The older children almost live, do live(?) in a different world than the younger ones!

    Liked by 1 person

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