Tag: Vancouver History

Our House was Built on Stilts (Prosperity Vs. Austerity Thinking) Ch. 17

After all poor people didn’t travel.

I cringe as I write this last part as now I realize that poor is as much a state of mind as anything else.

I mean, yes there were times when we were short of food and clothing and our shelter was very basic, but we weren’t on the street and we weren’t being bombed or forced out of our homes by war.

I guess what I’m trying to say is ultimately we were victims of our own poverty thinking. Coming from a place of austerity rather than abundance. This austerity thinking is something I learned from my mother and it took me many years to unlearn it and I still see it in people all the time and maybe it relates back to what we are talking about mental health wise, but ultimately it’s a first world problem.

Prosperity Vs. Poverty Thinking

Boy, that got deep all of a sudden.


Also, I do think that mental illness is, for the most part, a first world problem.

I don’t think this is the only time that I’ve mentioned this.

I mean it’s hard to find the time for diagnosis and medication when you’re spending all your time looking for clean water and trying to avoid landmines or poison gas.

Look, I think that PTSD is a legitimate complaint in the above case. I would be traumatized if I went through that too.

In Burkville the houses were built on stilts.

I’m not really sure why this is but it might be because they were PMQs during the second world war and a bunch had to be put up at once.

Another reason might be that the water table was three feet below sea level and we were beside the Fraser River.

Probably they expected flooding.

For us, this meant that things rattled when planes went over and there was an extra place to hide and play.

Under the house.

I can remember hiding and playing in the dirt under the front porch and when my mother passed over and my brother and I would be really quiet so as to remain undetected.

A lot of Richmond is made up of alluvial soil.

If you don’t know what this is, Dictionary.com describes it as ‘a fine-grained fertile soil deposited by water flowing over flood plains or in river beds.’

That’s basically the situation I described above, n’est pas?

This soil is considered to be some of the most fertile in the world. It’s unfortunate that in Richmond’s case, a lot of that land is covered in houses and developments and not being used to grow food or as agricultural land reserve. I remember this being in dispute growing up and as far as I know it is still in dispute.

Of course, we didn’t think about that as children. What we thought about was playing in backyards, up, in and under fruit trees and raiding the abundant gardens in our neighborhood, our parents’ and others.

The alluvial soil made this possible.

The Cora Brown area was described as having one acre lots attached to the small 800 square foot houses. I think our lots (in Burkville)  were half or a quarter of that.

My child’s mind remembers half an acre.

We had plum, apple, and sour cherry trees.

We had a vegetable garden. In the back beyond the yard, there was a dirt alley that was oiled every summer. On the other side of the alley were ambulant blackberry bramble.

One summer when Grandma Jensen was visiting, her and my mom picked blackberries and made pie and blackberry jam.

Should we just call her June?

Later on Nikki and I called her ‘Crappy June’ as we gave ourselves a little comic reprieve from her petty jealousies and general craziness.

This leads me to a mental health thought/question.

Does a parent ever have an excuse for abandoning her children? Is there ever any time this is acceptable, defendable or forgivable?

I think a lot about forgiveness.

I know my grudge is not hurting my mother (she’s passed now) but I can’t let it go and I don’t want to and maybe I shouldn’t have to.

Maybe now it’s become a part of me and it would be like giving up a limb if I had to let it go.

Maybe I’ve used my grudge to fill the hole that was left by growing up not just without a mother, but with less than a mother, really.

Mothers have a lot of power and a responsible person is aware of this and at least attempts to use it for good.

I don’t care how you feel inside or what bad chemicals might be floating around in there.

It is not the responsibility of your children to deal with them. Nor is it appropriate to share all your fears and every little diagnosis and trama with them.

We were children after all.

I’m only telling my own story here. My personal remerences.

I don’t think my sister’s experience is the same. She doesn’t really remember living with my Mom. We moved from Burkville when Nikki was six and I was 12. Those six years made a difference in our upbringing.

I don’t think she experienced what I did. Of course, this is an obvious statement. No one really experiences what another person does.

We’re born alone and we die alone.

Love, Sanné

Ps: This blog post is a little bit discombobulated and I’ve tried to improve it. Ultimately I’m of two minds about it. Should I let it stand out as it is? Or should I try to change what could be considered my natural voice? I’ve decided to let it stand as it is.

PPS: I should note here that writing about my mother is leading to a further understanding of her. Perhaps this will ultimately lead to a forgiveness of sorts. I certainly understand that my parents were very young.


The Jet Set (CH 16)

The Silver and Glassware Rattled in the Cabinet While the Jet Set Flew Overhead

Just to put things in perspective I should explain that the Airport was basically at the end of our road.

Lancaster Crescent ran three blocks long and at the far end there was a big field across Airport Road and that’s where the first runway lay.

This was Vancouver International Airport at the time, but now we know it as the South Terminal and it’s essentially a municipal airport.

Anyway, we grew up under a flight path and we were used to the sound of planes interrupting play and conversations and the silver and glassware rattling in the cabinets as the planes flew over. They were basically almost landing on our house. That’s how close they were.

After a while, we became quite used to it and didn’t hear this at all.

Continue reading

Does Anyone Else Here Remember Cora Brown? (Ch. 13)

Back in Burkville,

my mother and L.B. picketed to try to stop the second runway being built in ‘Core O’Brown’, an area adjacent to the Fraser River close to MacDonald Beach. They brought T and me with them and we were on TV. The picket signs were that day’s craft project. We each had our own. Continue reading

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