Once upon a time, according to family legend, anyway, some branch or other of my ancestors lived in a single-storey, wood-framed, brick-fronted cottage, kitty-corner from where I live now. My grandfather, (who inherited the house I now live in from his grandmother), apparently remembered picking carrots from the backyard garden of that little house across the street as a child.
That had to have been before 1916, because the two aged brothers who sold the place last spring told me the house had been in their family house since then. The dates don’t matter much, anyway; in fact, the family connection doesn’t matter much either. The little house across the street was a special place, that’s all.
It was charming, and compact, with lots of breathing room around it on a nice big sunny lot, when most houses on the street share thin walls with their neighbours. It wasn’t a Riverdale row house at all, it was more like a Cabbagetown cottage on the wrong side of the river. By the look of it, it was probably the oldest house on the street, dating to the original subdivision with its 45-foot lots, as opposed to the 15-footers most of us live in now.
The little house across the street had been empty for years, but the roof was kept well shingled, there was good sheathing on the back and sides, the chimney masonry was solid, and the two-tone brick facade was in excellent condition. It never seemed abandoned because the neighbourhood cats loved to congregate there, and in many ways it was the heart of the street.
Was, I say, because it’s gone now. We knew this was coming from the day the For Sale sign went up, and then the Sold sign, and then the application for a permit to develop the lot. The developer put the permit in the window a couple of weeks back, and last week, men came with equipment one morning and started to work. I talked to the workers before heading to work that morning; they seemed like good guys.
Quietly, methodically, respectfully, and efficiently they tore the place down piece by piece. I commend them, with all my heart, for not smashing the little house across the street with a wrecking ball. They took it apart board by board, and stacked the old lumber carefully before carting it away. They gave that house a decent death, and I’m grateful for that gesture.
The workmen also gave me a pair of windows – lovely wooden windows with cracking putty around the panes, big green-framed windows arched on top. They were they eyes of that little house across the street. I don’t know what I’m going to do with them, exactly, but I’ll find them a spot.
I’d like to mount them someplace where they can actually work as windows, even if it’s only for my backyard shed. It’s sentimental, I know. But when something ends, and you’re sad about it, it makes all the difference if you can see new light shining through somewhere else.