A Sad “Before & After”

Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love living in my 1-bedroom condo at King & Sherbourne with my gorgeous patio and the St. Lawrence Market a stone’s throw away.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about the house I grew up in…

They say, “records are meant to be broken.”  Well then, are houses meant to be torn down?

bessborough-before.JPG

Before sitting down to write this post, I first thought about how much personal information I want to divulge.  It then dawned on me that I already have my photo, biography, and daily thoughts an opinions on an open Internet forum to be viewed and read each day by thousands of people I have never met…..so why stop at just that?

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a nice house in a nice area, and believe me—I never forgot where I came from and how privileged I was.  I’ve decided to give back to community that was so good to me by volunteering to coach a rag-tag bunch of teenagers in the local baseball league over the last few years, and I’ll continue to do so indefinitely.

When I was 19-years-old, I was the lucky beneficiary of “90210 Syndrome.”  Do you know what this is?  Remember on the show Beverly Hills 90210 when the kids finally grew into teenagers and young adults, and they became the focal point of the show?  The writers and producers decided to get rid of the parents, and wrote them off the show by having them move to Japan.  In the process, the parents (Jim & Cindy!) left their Beverly Hills mansion in the hands of their capable teenage children (Brenda & Brandon!).

I remember watching this episode with my parents in about 1994 and hearing them say how “ridiculous and unrealistic” that was.

Fast forward a few years, and my parents divorced.  They each went their separate ways, and wouldn’t you know it—-they left the house in the hands of their capable teenage children!

Sure, I was somewhat irresponsible at first, but as I finished my Bachelor of Commerce and moved back into “the big house,” I took it upon myself to look after this house as if it were my own.  It was more work than I could have ever imagined, but I took pride in every single second that I put my blood and sweat into this magnificent property.

It was more house than any of us could ever need, and with that came a lot of responsibility.  It also didn’t help matters that when our house was renovated back in 1992, the builder cut every corner possible, and we had frequent problems over the years with water leakage all over the house.

But just as a mother loves her child no matter what that child could ever do, I continued to work at keeping this troubled house in tip-top shape.  We spent one entire summer painting the house; the walls were ALL white (or “off white”) for more than a decade, and we jazzed it up with some vibrant colors.

The house served it’s purpose as my brother, sister, and I finished University and began our careers, and eventually, my siblings and I went our separate ways, and the house was put up for sale.

On Wednesday of last week, a wrecking ball swung into the walls of my former residence over and over again until there was nothing left but a pile of rubble.

It pains me to even look at this picture:

bessboroughafter.JPG

But it did however, get me thinking: is this a blessing in disguise?

I always used to say, “I just can’t imagine somebody else living in my house!”  People would tell me, “Once it’s sold and other people have moved in, it ceases to become your house!”

But I refused to think of it that way!  I couldn’t imagine somebody sleeping in my bedroom or chipping golf balls in my backyard!

So as I try to look at the empty hole in the ground that used to be my house and put a positive spin on things, I get to thinking, “My house was so special that nobody else EVER lived in it after me.”

And in that way, it truly was my house.

We had a very unique lot in Leaside in that the house was essentially built over TWO lots.  The houses on either side of us were on 35-foot lots, and ours was situated on a 70-footer.  It was no surprise when a speculator-turned-builder purchased the house and knocked it down so he could build TWO houses in its place, and make a pile of money in the process.

As unfair as this may seem (in a roundabout way), I had the same opportunity to do so, but passed.

The house was legally owned by my father even though it was myself and my siblings who lived there and looked after it, and when it was decided that we would “do something” with the house, I approached my father about the possibility of building two houses on the lot and turning a huge profit ourselves.

My Dad, ever the rational thinker, simply said, “David….neither of us are in the business of constructing houses,” and that was basically the end of the conversation.

In a risk-versus-reward equation, what the heck did we stand to gain from this?  Sure, there was money to be made, but it really only stands to be made by qualified and knowledgeable people; not by a young man with a pipe-dream.

Last Monday, the neighbors stood and gawked as the wrecking-ball rocked the humble red-brick dwelling and knocked it to pieces, and my sister stood there watching, with tears in her eyes.  She kept talking about “how sad” it was to see, but I couldn’t help but think that she was the creator of her own misfortune.  She chose to physically travel to the site of the former house and watch it be knocked down, so perhaps she deserved to feel whatever mental anguish she experienced.

It wasn’t easy for me to take the photo of the hole in the ground and piles of rubble, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to watch it get torn down!

So am I justified in feeling sad about the fact that my former home has been torn down?

Just because the house is gone doesn’t mean my memories are as too.

I moved into that house when I was twelve-years-old and starting Grade Seven at Bessborough Public School.  I soon started high school, and then went on to University.  I lived in that house through my entire teenage life and well into my early adulthood.  More than half of my life was spent living in that house, and now that house is gone.

But every single memory I ever created in that house still remains in my brain, and that is something that the wrecking ball can never take away.  What’s more is that my close friends associate some of their very favorite memories or special times in their lives with being in that house, and it makes it all the more significant for me.

In fact, with the house now demolished, there is only ONE single thing I can think of that I can no longer do: gaze upon the house itself.

One day when I have kids, I’ll surely drive my car down Bessborough Drive and stop in front of two beautiful stone & red brick houses.  I’ll tell my children, “Apple, Ocean (I want to have stupid celebrity-like names for my kids…) this is the house that I grew up in a long time ago.”

My kids will then ask, “Really?  Which one?”

And I’ll reply, “Both…..but neither.”

You know that saying, “You’re so unique that when you were born, they broke the mold”?  Well when we left our home, they tore it down, and it was never to be lived in again.

As shocking as it was to see that gaping hole in the ground, I refuse to feel saddened.  And I hold on to this thought about being “the last ones to live there” as the only thing that can keep me from feeling the sorrow to which I’m otherwise entitled.

But the house is not a person, it’s not love—-it’s just a thing.

There always comes a time to “move on,” and that day for 96 Bessborough Drive has finally arrived…

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  1. Krupo says:

    Well, better it be torn down ‘voluntarily’ than shelled to a smoking husk by Russian tank. Continuing the (inappropriate?) military analogies, not having anyone else live in your old house is similar to the Soviet “scorched earth” policy: “if I no longer have it, you won’t either – hahaha … sigh!”

    It’s extremely positive, philosophically, to not get too attached to material things (an odd idea to push to a real estate broker?). Treasure the fond memories. I’m sure you have photos – they’re what really matter.

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