The strong memory of places

House on Kildonan Drive, Jane's Walk 2014

House on Kildonan Drive, Jane’s Walk 2014

H. and I participated in one of Winnipeg’s 24 Jane’s Walks* this weekend: the one along Kildonan Drive North.  It was a chilly, rather overcast day, but a large group of us gathered to wander along a river street associated with North Kildonan’s rich or famous—names familiar to the Mennonite settlement here like Henry Redekop, A.A. DeFehr, George Janzen, Henry Krahn, and  those connected to pioneering and municipal leadership like J.M. Morton and Angus Matheson McKay.

Now and then we were told of some house that used to be there but no longer was. It got me thinking about how difficult it can be to remember the earlier look of a site when you’re staring at how it looks now. For example, I never think of Redekop Lumber (later Polet’s) which used to be at 1128 Henderson while I’m at Starbucks or Shopper’s there. It already takes effort while driving the recently constructed Chief Peguis Freeway to remember the corridor of green fields and woods that bordered Douglas Avenue, just a block from where we live, which I short-cutted across for years to visit my parents at Donwood Manor.

But if it’s difficult to separate the current and the previous while physically present at sites, I have less trouble hauling places up in my memory. I know places I’ve lived–beginning with the house of my preschool years–with a thoroughness that surprises me. I can see, almost feel, them. Even dorm rooms of short duration. I often remember places better than I remember what went on inside them, it seems. Few conversations, few incidents, sometimes not even faces. And if incidents are remembered, they come along with a strong sense of location.

It seems so much of what I’m conscious of while I’m living it will slip away, while that to which I pay scant attention in the moment–the container around this living–seeps into me and remains accessible. I think I could step in and walk around any number of former rooms, opening curtains, pulling out drawers, aware of where everything is kept. Is it just me? Or is there some brain-function explanation for this?



*Jane’s Walks, held in many cities every year on the weekend closest to her May 4 birthday, celebrate Jane Jacob’s ideas about neighborhoods and what makes city living good.

4 thoughts on “The strong memory of places

  1. Dora, we’re in Ontario and just drove by the house in which we lived for 24 years. On impulse I jumped out of the car and walked into the back yard and the memories just came flooding in. The back yard looked smaller, the deck looked older, I almost cried about the huge ash tree I always looked at through my kitchen window. It was no longer there. But it will always be a part of me, as will the lilac bush given me by a dear friend.

  2. I’m remembering today the house on Hallet where my friend Joyce lived for some time, enough time for me to make many weekly visits to deliver groceries, take and bring back laundry, do pick-ups for doctor’s or other visits… the house where we met you to take one last look for significant belongings in the back room. Her journey since then has taken strange, interesting but meaningful curves. Today I read, “Where the sufferer is, God is.” For some reason known only to Him, God sent me to be his Presence in her life for several years. Today at 1 PM I am bidding her farewell at her memorial service at Voyage Funeral Home on Hespeler. Thought you might be interested. Deanna

    • I’m interested, for sure, have sometimes wondered… and so grateful that you let me know. You were an angel in her life. I’d love if you’d give me a call sometime later this week. Best, D.

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