Monday, 2 July 2007

You Can't Go Home Again

Yesterday, July 1st, was Canada Day, the 140th anniversary of Confederation. I spent the day at the Highland Games at Embro, near Stratford, and sang our national anthem, "O Canada" with everyone there. The first line of that anthem always gives me pause:

"O Canada, our home and native land" .... well, like the thousands of Jamaicans who have made their home in this wonderful country, Canada is indeed our home. I have spent two-thirds of my life here ... I'm a proud Canadian citizen, and my children and grandchildren are Canadians, but home? That's a tough one. After forty-seven years, yes it's home, but I still feel a connection to my "native" land. (It's too bad that they can't come up with a better word than native in the national anthem for those of us who chose to make Canada home.)

I'm looking at a certified copy of my birth registration, number BM 8896, in the District of Cross Roads, Saint Andrew. It's too long to scan on my little 8 1/2 x 11 scanner. I was born at Nuttall Memorial Hospital, 31 May 1935. My father was Michael Leopold Levy, civil service clerk of 7 Anderson Road, Woodford Park, Saint Andrew, and my mother was Maud Dey Levy, formerly Smedmore. My father registered my birth on July 3, 1935. Well, I don't remember Anderson Road in Woodford Park, because when I was about six months old, my parents bought a house at 5 Holborn Road, St. Andrew from a Mr. Garsia, and moved there, and that house was the only home that I knew for my life in Jamaica, until I left there in 1957.
This is the house I remember ... 5 Holborn Road. It was situated off of Trafalgar Road. At one point Holborn Road ended in a dead end, which later was developed as Chelsea Avenue, which in turn ran out to Half-way Tree Road. Holborn Road ran south of Trafalgar Road, and there were two side roads off of it ... Renfrew Road and Dumphries Road, before it ran into Chelsea Avenue. In my childhood Dumphries Road was a dead end which ended at Knutsford Park, the major horse-racing venue at the time. Now it's all gone and the area I lived in is known as New Kingston, but more of that later.

Here I am as a child with my brother, Micky, with our nurse, in front of the house at 5 Holborn Road.

The house, as I remember it, was quite large. There was a large front verandah with four large pillars supporting a gable roof. Off of the front verandah were four French doors. The two in front opened into the dining room. One on the left opened into the drawing room, and the one on the right opened into my parents' bedroom. On the left side of the house, behind the drawing room, was a bedroom with a full bathroom. This was my brother's but I also remember that during the war it was occupied by a boarder, a mysterious Mr. Wellard. Moving back, on this side of the house were the pantry and kitchen. On the right side of the house, was my parents' bedroom. Off of it was a dressing room with a sink, the bathroom which contained the bath only, and there was a separate room for the toilet. Behind this was my bedroom, and behind that, a spare bedroom which was occupied for some time by my Aunt Tess when she lived with us. In the middle of all this was the dining room, off which the other rooms were situated, and at the back an enclosed latticed verandah. To me the house was quite large. It sat on a quarter acre of land. In the front there were two gates and a grassy driveway connecting them, and a lawn enclosed by a privet hedge. (It was not really privet, as I discovered later, but a type of barberry.) My mother's pride and joy were the garden beds in which she grew flowers. The ones I mainly remember were gerberas, also called African Daisies.

We had a detached garage, though for a long time we had no car. This sat at the end of the driveway leading from the south gate entrance.
By the time this photo was taken we did have a car. These photos aren't that great. They were taken with a Brownie 120 camera, but hopefully you get the idea. Though it's a bit hard to make out, on the right side of the photo you can see that there was a separate entrance to the bedroom on the left side of the house (Micky's bedroom aka the spare bedroom).

In the backyard we had all sorts of trees: a huge breadfruit tree which my brother climbed and claimed he could see Kingston Harbour from it -- a grapefruit tree, a Valencia orange tree, mango trees (Bombay, Julie, Number Eleven, Hairy), an ackee tree ... and we also had a chicken coop and kept a few chickens who came to a sticky end so we could have chicken dinner.

These are my memories and I think this photo of me with my parents is one of my favourites.

On either side of the verandah were planted pink oleander. I remember also that we had pointsettias and euphorbia which were a riot of colour, red and white, come Christmas.

These are my memories of the house at 5 Holborn Road. My parents sold the house after I left home. By then my brother was married and the place was too big for them. They sold the house to a Canadian from Guelph who turned it into a hotel ... more of this later ... and moved to 11 Dunrobin Avenue. Later they moved with my Uncle Rodney to 4 Carvalho Drive.

The house at 5 Holborn Road still lives in my memory as my home till I was 22 years old and left Jamaica. It has changed dramatically, and those changes will be the subject of my next post. But still ... the memories are there and they are what I see when I think of "home".


patricia said...

Lovely post, and beautiful pictures. It's very true that none of us can ever go home again. Who was it that coined that phrase? Tom Wolfe? Even if one's home still exists, it will not be the same as one remembered it, since the ravages of time affect everything. Loved ones are no longer with us, people move, new people move in and make changes. But at least we all have the memories that we can hopefully hold on to, for the rest of our lives. I can't help but think about the house we as kids grew up in, in Burlington, and how that has all changed, too...

Jamaican Girl said...

Dorothy, I enjoy reading your memoirs of Jamaica. I wish I had lived at that time. Please keep posting and adding pictures! If only Jamaica was still like that today!

Dorothy Kew said...

Thanks for your comments! I' presently working on another post ... I know I should do this more often, but stuff gets in the way. Do keep reading! I appreciate the comments!

shonari said...

Great archive of Jamaica...i am in Jamaica and its nothing like the way it was.

Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore
My uncle Victor