Thursday, March 16, 2017

Carson and Roy

A couple of weeks ago, for a Throwback Thursday post, I shared a photo that was taken of my sister and me, in 1968, lounging by an inflatable pool outside our apartment building. This was the last place that we lived in, in Montreal, before my family moved to Ottawa.

In that post, I said that I wanted to seek out this apartment building, that in doing so I was hoping to stir some memories.

I found it.

The building is in Dorval, where I suspected it was: across Highway 20 from the airport. I have no memories of airplanes flying low, on approach or takeoff, and in the time that I spent walking around this building, on the corner of Avenues Carson and Roy, while I could faintly hear the distant rumble of traffic on the highway, I had to strain my ears to hear any activity at P.E. Trudeau International Airport.

Focusing on taking photos, I couldn't hear anything further than the few cars that moved along Carson Avenue.

I pulled up on Roy, at the far end of the apartment building, near a sloped driveway that led to a small underground garage, where there was extra storage space for the tenants. I remembered this garage, how we parked our black VW Beetle at the bottom of the slope.

Where the pool sat, a newer driveway, big enough for two cars, was paved. This week, my mother shared some photos that were taken only a few years ago, when she and my sister visited this building for my sister's 50th birthday. That little parking space was under construction, the lawn was torn up but not paved.

My mom described the building and our apartment. We were on the second floor, the first floor being half-sunk into the ground. The apartments were spacious, with only a handful of units for each floor. Our apartment occupied the back of the building, with a depth that filled about a quarter of the length.

I outlined our unit in the following photo.

I took a photo down the side of the building where we had the pool, but because I was standing, likely, in the spot where I had lounged in '68, no memories hit me. Looking up the building, however, I remembered looking up to see my sister and one of her friends, on a higher floor, calling down to me and laughing. It was as if I was living in a dream, where things seemed familiar but were also different.

Having taken enough photos, I rejoined my family in our vehicle and made our way back to the highway, where we would continue on to the downtown core of Montreal. After a block or so, I saw a church further up the road, and I remembered playing with friends in a field, the church nearby. Sure enough, as we came to the church, I saw a park right beside it. The memory was clear and made my heart seem filled with emotion.

Sharing my experiences, this week, with my mother, I learned something new. Until now, I thought that there were only two places that I lived in, in Montreal. This apartment, in Dorval, and another, in Lasalle. Because my birth certificate was issued in the city of Verdun, that's where I thought I was born.

I was wrong.

I was born in a hospital in Lasalle (which borders on Verdun) and lived in Verdun (the city where I was registered). But not only did I live in Verdun, my family lived in two places in that borough, in different apartments on 5e Avenue.

This weekend, driving from Dorval to downtown Montreal, we passed through Verdun to bypass the construction on Hwy 720. It's a dodgy neighbourhood, filled with abandoned and dilapidated factories. Yet, many of these derelict buildings are undergoing a renaissance, being converted into modern condos.

The area has a lot of character, too, and as we drove through the old streets, I told DW that I planned to return as soon as the snow is gone, to wander the streets and photograph it.

I can't wait.

I've been to Montreal countless times since my family moved to Ottawa, in 1968, but I've never explored the old neighbourhood where my life began. Half a century has passed: it's time that I went home.

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