Sitting in the foyer of Riley Park Community Center, I ,the artist in residence, was lucky enough to meet Brenda.
We got to chatting and her stories were incredible, so I asked if I could type as she talked...she said "Go ahead!"
Forgive me Brenda, if the details aren't perfect. I was typing as fast as I could!
"I lived at 20th and St. Catherines when I was a little girl, from grade 1-8, then my family moved to 25th and Prince Albert.
The community is amazing.
I still have my friendships with my grade 8 friends. Ten of us still get together. Two of our sons are best friends, they are just 6 days apart. I visited my old house on 20th and all the memories flooded back. But you got to get out of the car and walk on the sidewalk, not just drive by. It was amazing to walk on the same sidewalk that I grew up on.
I knew all the people in the Riley Park Gang. Park gangs were big. They seemed like they were bad kids back then, but compared with kids today... Now some of those guys work for the city and the park board. I am not saying any names. Ha Ha
We used to have to walk from Charles Dickens Elementary School, at Kingsway and Windsor, to Percy Norman Pool to go swimming in grade 5. I can remember standing under the low diving board and thinking,
'They want me to jump off of that?'
Swimming was part of school back then...back in the days when the vaccinations made those big scabs, remember those? We couldn't go into the pool with the scabs.
All my kids learned to swim in this pool.
Me and my kids also learned how to skate here.
My husband used to play business man's hockey on Thursday nights. I would write letters in Riley's Place, that was the cafe. I made friends with a woman who worked there, her name was Chan. Chan was from Trinidad and her husband was from Germany.
Now, at that time, my son was dating a woman named Alecia. One day he told me,
'Her mother is from Trinidad and her father is from Ireland.'
'Are you sure her Dad isn't from Germany?'
'Is her Mom's name Chan?'
And he said
'How did you know?'
Now here is a crazy story:
My husband was adopted and was always told that his birth mom was from Montreal and that she had passed away. But in fact, she called one day. We were just getting ready to move, but then was delayed-otherwise we would have had our phone disconnected and then had an unlisted number. Now she just happened to call in July, when my husband was turning 50….my son wondered what we could do to make it special. And then this strange woman called asking tons of questions about my husband and his mother. And I said
'Who is this?'
It turns out that my husband's birth mom (Mimi) was working as a nanny and got her employer to call.
(It gets even more complicated now hang onto your hats)
My husband's adopted mother, Gwen (she has since passed away), started out as Mimi's nanny, babysitting Jerry, my husband, for about 6 months when Mimi suddenly was going to get a divorce. Mimi asked Gwen if she wanted to adopt Jerry...so she did.
My husband always thought he was English and it turns out he is Italian/Scandinavian.
Jerry met his birth mom for the first time a week later….my mouth fell open. Gwen always told me she was gorgeous. But my mouth literally dropped open when I saw her. She is one beautiful woman. She used to be a playboy bunny!
Now, Mimi is 75 years old and totally part of our family, she even has a great grandson! My husband is so happy. My sons, I have four, are also happy to have a grandmother again. My third boy said
'Is it ever cool having a grandmother, and she's hot!'
We also learned that Mimi grew up 5 houses over from where we all lived, in Riley Park...incredible to think her grandsons played on the same streets!"