My old house burned down Sunday night. You can see video of it here. The top floor was all that burned, but I would be very surprised if the rest of it is deemed livable again. It was a classic three-story Victorian with creaky hardwood floors, drafty windows and claw-foot tubs, and its top floor was my home for the final two years of my undergrad degree. Sure, it wasn't my childhood home, but it would be short-sighted to dismiss 46 Bridge Street in Sackville, New Brunswick, as simply a place where I lived for a couple of years in college. The years I spent there were two of the most formative I can recall, and many of the friendships that were developed in that very house remain pillars of who I am.
There were quad-occupancy apartments on each floor, with my buddies and I occupying the penthouse from 2001-2003 (and, funnily enough, my sister living in the middle apartment from 1998-2000). The pool table and the bar were already there when we moved in, and we made sure to exploit them to their full social and procrastinatory potential. I am a little bit sheepish now, recalling the vigor with which I pursued a stereotypical college-boy existence in apartment C, and the appalling standards of cleanliness to which I held myself, but I don't feel the need to make any apologies for having been good at being 21.
Which is not to say that the relationships developed in that house were forced, or existed only for the purpose of having drinking buddies. Sure, some of the friendships were specific to that time and place and have remained dormant since I moved out, but many others have not. As I stood at the altar next to a dear friend on his wedding day this past summer, I could not help but remember having "We Are the Champions" cued up when he came home to 46 C after his first date with the girl who would become the woman walking down the aisle. And next weekend I'll enjoy a ski trip here in BC with another former housemate: one whom I got to know better than I could have possibly imagined through interminable hours spent together without taking our eyes off the PlayStation.
Indeed, I was fortunate beyond my karmic entitlement when it came to the cast of characters I spent time with in that house. I learned more than I ever would have cared to about chemistry or knife-sculpting from my more academically motivated room mates, spent some electric Friday nights playing music with two generations of downstairs neighbours, and learned an awful lot about loyalty from the girls on the first floor.
I know that nothing is permanent - indeed, it is a truth in which I take much comfort. That having been said, the finality of 46 Bridge having burned is all too permanent, and is a tough pill to swallow. It chokes me to know that I'll never again be able to point to the bedroom where I worked on 8 courses in my final semester. Or the window that AJ rappelled out of one sunny May afternoon, putting his heel through the window on the second floor. Or the living room where Noel, Greg, Andrew G. and I would spend hazy nights trying to get under each others' skin in discussions about music, hockey or women (sometimes all three if we were feeling especially ambitious), while The Big Lebowski or a Dave Matthews Band concert video played in the VCR.
Perhaps there was nothing remarkable about the two hilarious and educational years I spent up there, but the fact that I am feeling more than a little twisted up about this tells me that I was blessed to have had a place to live that was truly my home, rather than a temporary collegiate abode. I think tonight I'll throw on a little Jimmy Swift Band and drink a cold bottle of Keith's, looking back on my days out East and raising my glass to the people who made those years what they were, and the big white house on Bridge Street.
P.S. For anyone who may be interested - especially 46 Bridge St. alumni - donations to the students impacted by the fire can be sent to:
Mount Allison Students' Administrative Council
62 York Street.