I never think of Ottawa as an overly cosmopolitan city, but people are often surprised when they find out that I was born and raised here. I guess there are a lot of people who work for the federal government who travelled to Ottawa for employment and then stayed. As for me, I left after high school. I’ve always liked Ottawa, but I think most kids probably want to get out and explore the world at some point, and I was no different. The University of Prince Edward Island became my home for four years, and it’s where I met Rob. From there, we worked and lived in Korea for almost three years, and did a lot of travelling in that time. Then we came back and did a stint in Edmonton. I worked in the oil industry (who didn’t at that time?) while he completed his masters. But Edmonton wasn’t for us, and we both had family in Ottawa, and so we returned. It’s hard to believe that was five years ago now.
But before all that flurry of moving around, almost all of my childhood was spend in the little neighbourhood of Crystal Beach, close to the Ottawa River. We first lived in a bungalow, and I still remember being really excited at the age of 8 to see a big SOLD sticker placed on our front lawn. Mostly I was excited because my parents were, and it was contagious. But my 8-year-old self was also super pumped for a bigger bedroom and a pool in the backyard!! My younger brother doesn’t much like change, and at the time he was not only sad, but angry that he didn’t get to be there for moving day to say goodbye to the old house. Note to all parents: five-year-olds might remember that sort of thing forever! Who knew?
The house on 4 Harlowe Crescent served us well for so many years. I’m sure my parents have very different memories of the place than I do, but what I remember most is making forts under the basement staircase, Barbie safaris in the backyard, and the time my dad stumped us all playing hide-and-go-seek (he hid in the laundry shoot!!). I remember changing my bedroom to baby blue, reading in the afternoon light (my bedroom had the best light), and dancing around when I got my first stereo. There were sleepovers and pool parties, Kurt and I challenging each other to see how long we could hold our breath under water. Playing catch in the street, making snow tunnels in the front yard, and the time a baby squirrel crawled up my pant leg and then latched on and fell asleep in there! We walked home from school every day, and I started babysitting the neighbours. We were always rushing: scrambling out the door for soccer games, morning volleyball practices, and weekly piano lessons, rushing home to eat my favourite snack: melted cheese on saltine crackers, warmed up in the microwave while talking to my friend Christina on the phone. My first car parked by the hedges in all its bright red and rusted glory. The last long summer of high school, tanning on the deck.
And then, I moved out and away for school, and my room turned into a guest room and I used the basement from then on. Memories of the house at that time are having friends over around the holidays, my mom teasing me about my “PEI accent” while basting the turkey, and cramming in as much excitement in two weeks at a time as I could, and, in later years, missing Rob who was back in Charlottetown. Packing up all my stuff into two suitcases to move to South Korea with Rob, every article of clothing I owned spread all over the living room and wondering how even half of it would fit. Coming home from the first year in Korea and the exhilaration and exhaustion of backpacking Europe for almost four months. Coming home for the second time, knowing I’d be leaving yet again, this time to Edmonton, and again with Rob. A clear warm night under the stars and swimming the pool when Rob proposes. Wondering if my parents were watching from the window. Sneaking downstairs to get dressed, because who tells their parents they’re engaged while dripping wet? Packing up a minivan with all our belongings and heading West. Coming back 16 months later and living in the basement for 8 months with my husband, unemployed, and crying into my pillow most days at the shame of it all. My parents are saints. Then finding jobs, buying a house of our own, and finally goodbye.
To commemorate the occasion, I dug through a couple of my high school photo albums. Everything from earlier is at my parents’ new place. Have fun laughing at teenage Natasha!
Girls’ Halloween Party
Braiding my cousin Sharlee’s hair on the deck.
Thanksgiving with my grandparents.
Getting my black belt, my Nannie at Christmas.
Sheilagh and I in my bedroom (why this required a picture I have no idea).
16th Birthday party.
Lazy summers by the pool.
The house has changed a bit over the years, and my parents have done a lot of updating to sell. It’s looking a lot different than it was year ago! I’m definitely not a real estate photographer, but I took these images for them since they’re selling by owner. I think they’ll be a nice momento.
My parents moved almost a year ago. Their new place is perfect for them, and we’ll make more memories there. But it’s amazing how much a house can hold your past, and the house on Harlowe will always be part of me.