The fall of 1989 was a period of great change for my family. In 1988 we moved from our original home in the community to a new building my dad had purchased. We were excited to be moving into our new home. It was good in many ways to leave our old place, a three-bedroom house that expanded over the years into a five-bedroom home for our family of nine children and two parents. There was not much change to our neighbourhood as our new home was located right across the street from our original place. However, we filled our new home with brand new furnishings and it sat on a large plot of land with a driveway and a newly constructed outhouse. We were making a new start and everyone was happy. Although the new place was a little smaller with only four bedrooms, it worked out as my sister Jackie had recently married and moved into her own home.
We only lived in the second house for about a year and then dad got wind of news from the local Chief and Council that a new subdivision was being developed in town for local residents. The new homes included two living levels, new appliances, carpeting and, best of all, running water. Dad quickly put our family up for one of the new homes and luckily we were accepted as one of the recipients. That summer, as construction took place on the new subdivision, dad took us all across town to visit our new home. The subdivision was located on the edge of the community in the midst of upturned clay plots of land, muddy driveways and newly laid gravel. Dad was excited at the thought of our future home. My brothers and sisters and I were all happy too but we had some apprehensions and worries that somehow this dream might disappear. It was too good to be true.
At the same time, I remember feeling a great sense of hope for the future as we walked through the building, which was still under construction. The windows had been installed but the interior was not finished and we could see through the frame as we walked on bare plywood floors. Dad took us for a tour around the house, pointing out his and mom’s room upstairs and asking us where we wanted ours in the four bedrooms downstairs.
We all lobbied for our own space and we scouted out the bedrooms to figure out what best suited our needs.
The new homes were not finished until late in the fall. I left home before the move to our new house to start my secondary education in the south. I called back home every week to get an update from mom and dad who told me about the great move that was taking place in Attawapiskat.
I came home before Christmas and was amazed and almost overwhelmed with the changes that had taken place. Our family had moved twice and now I was attending high school in Timmins. I came home with my brothers Mario and Philip. We landed in an old Hawker Sidley airplane and the entire family was there to take us to our new dream home. We quickly toured the house and selected the arrangement of our new rooms. There was a great sense of relief and peace. There was running water in our kitchen and we could flush the toilet. We were happy to not have to put up with indoor toilet pots that had to be regularly dumped in a hole in our backyard. It was great not to have to boil water to wash the dishes, for cleaning and laundry, to take a bath or just wash up in the morning.
Still, on visiting our original family home I felt a sense of sadness. We had crossed some kind of threshold and although things seemed better on the other side of town we were still anxious. The old house was cold and felt deserted. Many of the things we had grown up with and held dear were tossed aside. I can still see our old home-made bunk beds where our names were etched in the wood. If I close my eyes and drift back I can still hear the chatter in those rooms, the sounds of mom working in the kitchen and the snap and crackle of the wood stove.
I think dad felt the same way. It didn’t take long for him to haul the old place up to sit adjacent to the new dream home. It was as though we all felt we owed something to this old house or maybe we just didn’t want to let go of some things. Anyway it still sits there only a stone’s throw away from our new world in the Attawapiskat subdivision.