Friday, March 16, 2012

Changes Over Time

Visiting my hometown of Winnipeg last week was a surprisingly stirring emotional experience for me.  This was my first time back since my parents moved to British Columbia several years ago.  After working all day Friday and Saturday, I accepted an invitation to play the offertory at Ness Ave. Baptist, the church where I grew up.  I did a solo piano version of "Sweet Hour of Prayer", a hymn I remembered singing there many times as a youth.  On this day, it was the only hymn to be played, as the music format has changed to rock worship bands.  Back in the day, piano and hymns dominated.  I recall a time when as a teen, I ranked myself as the seventh best pianist in the church and aspired to gradually climb the ranks.  (With that disclosure I am probably revealing far too much about my competitive nature.)

It was strange and rather overwhelming to be back in the church I attended from age 5 until leaving town to attend university.  Between degrees I also attended for a year, and even became a member.  So much has changed, yet there were many familiar faces (although with a few more wrinkles).  Prior to the service beginning, I found myself overcome with emotion in seeing so many of my parent's old friends.  I had to retreat to the men's room briefly to regain my composure.   I was happy to see that the church as a whole appears to be spiritually healthy, and the spoken message was quite inspiring.  The band too was much better than what I have experienced elsewhere recently.

The site of my former high school, Silver Heights Collegiate
I observed many other changes in Winnipeg. There has been much demolition and construction. The new airport is spectacular.   An empty field is now the site of the high school from which I graduated.  Condominiums will soon be erected.  My favorite men's clothing store, Grafton/Stonehouse is no longer present in the malls.  Traffic has increased.  The Jets are back!!!  A new football stadium is being built. There are jazz programs at the University of Manitoba and at Brandon University!  Architect, Frank Gehry is building a mammoth Human Rights museum at the Forks.  The list could go on and on.

Perhaps the most profound change was experienced when visiting my old street, Athlone Drive.  Some of the houses are no longer in pristine condition.  My childhood next-door-neighbor is now well into his 90s.  The passage of time is showing.  I mustered the nerve to knock on the door of my childhood home.  The owner graciously invited me inside and gave me a tour.  To my surprise, they had "gutted" the place.  Not a single room was unaltered.  Many walls were removed.  The interior was gorgeous, modern and tastefully done, but in no way resembled my childhood home.  Very few memories were evoked, because it was no longer the same place.

I'm glad I visited.  I didn't realize that I needed closure, but I sure got it.  That period in time is done.  Gone.  It was a wonderful time --- and in some ways I mourned its passing on this trip.  Winnipeg is no longer home for me, but it will always hold a special place in my heart.


  1. Thanks for sharing, Earl. Home truly does become where your family is!! I will keep your "old house" picture in my Christmas Eve memories - your Mom and Dad have always been SOOO good to us!! I will always be a prairie girl, but I do love my "new home". Take care.

  2. Earl, thanks for sharing ... It is always good to be reminded of our roots, from whence we came. Just think today you are building those same memories for your kids ... someday they will be visiting CT thinking back of days gone by ... - Paul