So many houses, farmhouses, and cottages were on the impossibly straight and infuriatingly narrow two-lane road that led out of the town of Lucknow, Ontario—‘Welcome to Lucknow – A Sepoy Town” was its greeting sign—towards Lake Huron. I had remembered the gray asphalt road itself, having spent many hours as a child gazing down into what appeared to me to be an infinite distance towards the lake. Oftentimes dark and equally infinite thunderclouds would roll down that same road towards me in grim forewarning of the torrential rain and terrifying lightning storm to come.
I also recalled the approximate location of the little house where I had spent most of my formative years, but after 30 years, things change.
Sometimes, everything changes.
Certainly no one here knew me or would remember my family. We had never been part of the Scottish ‘cliques’, some of which had been there since the 1800’s. We had made no mark on the town itself. Paul Henderson—the famous hockey player who had scored the winning goal in the 1972 Russia-Canada series—had been almost everyone’s grocery delivery boy, not just ours, although our family happily claimed him.
Our neighbours of the time had either since died or moved on—to the city or to other provinces—much like we had.
I drove west along the road, and checked to my right each time I reached a separate plot of land, hoping to find some familiar landmarks or houses. The Thompson’s house next to ours had sported a very long, very steep driveway down to their stable. There had been a wide river running behind both of our properties. Many a day saw me wandering to their house to ride their pony, play with Bill Thompson, or go adventuring with my dog Prince into the fields and forest out back, dodging black snakes and spooking frogs and other creatures.
These were my memories.
Suddenly I spotted a house that just might have been ours! I turned into its circular driveway—a feature I did not recall—and parked. It was smaller than I remembered, but it matched. There was the white front door, with its accompanying screen in aluminum thistle motif, leading out to mottled gray cement steps. There was the matching storm screen door on a mudroom that jutted out on the east side.
Strange … on both doors hung an official-looking piece of white paper. It reminded me of eviction notices I had seen pasted on city apartment doors.
Intrigued, I exited my car and walked along the gravel driveway towards the mudroom door. It had been the only allowable entrance for me as a kid all grimy and dirty from outdoor frolicking, and I was drawn automatically to it.
As I neared the door I turned and looked to the next property.
Yes, this was it!
I could see the Thompson’s house now, exactly as it had been, except their driveway was wrong. Its slope was very mild, and its length quite mundane. I gazed into the back portion of what had been our property. I could see a small copse of trees, and the barely noticeable cut of a very small creek just beyond the fence demarcation.
I was Gulliver among the Lilliputians; everything had shrunken so greatly compared to my memory of it.
With a sigh I turned again towards ‘my’ house and walked to the mudroom door. Would anyone hail me before I reached the door? I reviewed my planned explanation for my arrival: “Hello, I used to live here when I was young, would you mind if I just walked through really quickly to see what it looks like now?”
I needn’t have worried.
As I came closer to the door, I could easily see from its large black-lettered header that it was actually a notice of condemnation from the township of Lucknow.
No sense in knocking then.
I studied it. The date of demolishment was two weeks hence. Suddenly my memories had begun fading and were as discolored as the paint on the house. Childish recollections had been all that remained of this part of my life before, and now that I had seen the reality as it was, I would not be able to keep that reality from overtaking the cherished memories. Rust was forming. Wood was rotting. The garden was wilting.
Not only the house would be demolished, but so would that period in my life.
I was condemned to forget, just as the house was condemned to be destroyed.