Ever since we moved to our new little town I have felt this need to justify myself as a local. Yes, I grew up right in the middle of the city, but this was always a place of mine. I’m not just some city person trying to get away from the hectic life.
The fact is, I grew up in Ottawa, but really I grew up all around the Ottawa Valley.
My grandfather grew up with two brothers in Smiths Falls. Not far from where we live now he went out with his father exploring and taking photos and learning how to sketch, camping with his brothers, canoeing on the river.
Growing up with my Tutu and Gramps taking us out and about we went everywhere in between. Almonte was a special stop for them because Gramps’ youngest brother lived here.
Almonte was also someplace my father brought us because this is where his mother grew up. My Granny, born in 1899, grew up where I am now living and my daughter will go to the same high school she attended. (She also played on the high school basketball team, which my daughter likely will too).
My Granny, her sister and her parents are buried a few minutes up the road, and now my Dad is with them too.
After he died we found a scrapbook of hers that documents her high school years that starts about 1913 and slowly the boys in the photos start to show up in uniforms.
The fact is that I feel very distant from the Scanlon side of the family. I know I’m a lot like my father, and I look like my Granny, but I was the very youngest. None of the grandkids got to meet Grandpa Scanlon, but by the time I was old enough to know her, Granny was deep into Alzheimers.
I never got to ask her about her life, her childhood, her travels and interests.
Now I’m living in her place, looking through her pictures, and I mourn the fact that I never go to know this clearly fascinating woman, who lost a sister when she was only 10, lost her father at 20 and raised two children while her husband went away to fight in two world wars.
Now, my Tutu’s family were proudly from Saskatchewan – except they hadn’t actually been there that long. I knew that part of the family had emigrated west from Ontario, what I didn’t realize was that my great-great-grandparents lived in Lanark County, and my great-grandmother was born here. The man she married, my great-great-grandfather was born in Goulbourn.
When she died she still had two brothers living in Carleton Place. Like, down the road.
(My great-grandfather on that side was born in Perth County, Ontario, which is not near Perth. In 1901 the census put him living in The Territories and then in 1906 he was in Saskatchewan, because it had become a province in between).
The point is that my roots are planted here. We’re setting up our life here, long term.
While this isn’t a city like where I grew up, the first thing I noticed when we saw the house was the neighbourhood. The feel of the neighbourhood was what brought me back for a second look. This is a good place for my kid, a good place for us to be. A good house to grow with us.