At first I wasn’t sure whether to include this as an object, but since it is a thing, valued as much for its substance as its content, I think it counts.
Titled “Robyn’s Residences”, it was written in or around 1990, when I first moved from Winnipeg to Vancouver. I don’t recall the exact circumstance, but it was some conversation with my mom about my nomadic history – all the different places that I’d lived in my life so far. At that point, I was 23 years old, and had had 19 separate addresses. While that’s an average of 1.2 years at each location, some locations lasted as long as 3+ years, so others were more way station than home.
Since then, I’ve added to the list, marring the beauty of my mom’s fluid script with my own terrible printing. My life in BC has been less nomadic but still hardly stationary. The current total is 29 addresses in (nearly) 49 years, increasing the average to 1.7. Considering I’ve been at my current address for nearly 11 years (and counting), I clearly continued the nomad trend for a while, but am now much more settled. Or perhaps just tired of packing and moving.
Reading the addresses on this list brings each place back to my memory. Even the ones that were brief, I remember them clearly and specifically – the people in my life then, the circumstances that brought me there, and the excitement, sadness and fear of some of the in-betweens. Examples:
- Victory Place. This was my grandmother’s house in Winnipeg. My residency there was brief – in between apartments with my parents – and since we visited there often, and I stayed with her frequently as a child, my memories of that home extend beyond the few weeks or months that it was also my address.
- Cedar Crescent, PEI. When I was 12, we lived for 6 months in Souris, PEI. Cedar Crescent was the first house we lived in, when we first arrived. The layout was strange, and its proximity to an active lumber yard noisy and perplexing, but my memories of that summer are of warm, dusty sawdust air, frequent trips to the beach (especially Bothwell Beach), and walks into town for groceries.
- Mariner’s Walk, Vancouver. Not my first address in the big city, but one where I felt super cosmopolitan, roomies with a good friend. Living near to Granville Island market, it was the closest I ever came to the “Sex and the City” lifestyle. A great adventure.
- West 1st Avenue, Vancouver. A one-month house-sitting gig near Kits Beach that made me realize living close to where the fireworks festival happens is not a blessing. Also, the scene of the boiling lemon meringue pie incident.
Short or long, each of these residences was a home for me. And having the actual address jogs my memory in a way that a photo doesn’t – I remember the actual living there, moving in and out, mail received, visitors and events.
The object itself is also precious. The paper is from a basic lined notebook, and has been folded various ways from time to time. I usually put it in my own current address book, but occasionally it has made its way into other books or drawers or boxes, leading to a flurry of searching when I go to find it. I actually hadn’t seen it in a while, and wasn’t looking for it when it turned up in my card box (like a true hoarder, I have a box of greeting cards accumulated over time and just waiting for the right person and occasion and message to be sent). I clearly hadn’t seen it in many years, as the most recent address recorded was more than 10 years old. As usual, its discovery led to an extended reverie of reminiscing. Nowadays, that also includes searching on Google maps, to see which houses are still there (most) and which look the same (very few).
The transition from my mom’s handwriting to my own scribbles is not without meaning. The first entry in my own hand was the first apartment where I lived on my own, and so that address was where I truly became independent. A lot of growing up and life lessons happened to get me there, and still more happened while I lived at that studio apartment (with “the bear” next door).
Each home has special meaning and memories, and is an integral part of the path of my life. The list – both its information and its physical existence – is a map and talisman through those homes and those times, 29 chapters of my life so far. As an object, it creates a tangible connection to the past, and to the life and times that contribute to the ‘me’ I am today.