Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Old Home Place

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.
Sackville, NB
E4L 1A4


this photo makes me very uncomfortable said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel SQF said...

My condolences, that would shake me up too. Perhaps I can bring my The Jesus custom-embroidered cap over next weekend and we can watch the Big Lebowski?!

Michael said...

This is the place where I truly got to know Hart Shouldice... not in the year we spent together.. not when mrs shouldice and elizabeth blessed us with thier presence and cooking (thank you sooo much) but when i knew a Hart Shouldice that was confused... looking for identity... and that found it.. we would spend mornings (me plagued with pneunomia)sharing stories and watching blinf date.. what i never admitted wasthat i have may faked an illness for an extra few weeks based on a friendship i was too weak to say goodbye to.. a friendship that was based on being roomates at 46 bridge.. sure we initially moved in there for the "social" aspect.. but i can truly say that i came out of there a better person for having lived.. and i dont undermine the word live with everyone that frequented those floors... 46 Bridge,A,B and most importantly 2002 46C helped me shape me as the person i am today.. Harty, dude.. u know how much u mean to me... but the house, the establishment itself and everything that it endure.. i thank you, as u really made my university years worth it....
-jiggy aka mike hamilton

Michael said...

ps.. pls do not judge since i tried so type on an i-phone.. i would rather not be judged on my grammar.. haha thanks!truth is if i had a razr, i would have sent my phone and battery to hart....

Meghan said...


i love the way you have held onto that spot

i love the way you lifted your wing and let me snuggle into your laundry room to save me.

i love the humour we had

the acceptance

and the mutual respect we had for each other

i would really like to keep in better touch kid

being in asia is a great test

making me realize that i have the most brilliant cast of characters in my life

i love you so much
and miss you more than you know


Chris said...

Man after I read the first line I thought it was Withrow Manor.. I couldn't believe I had drove by it on my way to work this morning and not noticed.. Glad to hear it wasn't but still that is pretty rough and I am never glad to hear about house fires. I still get brought back to how scary it was when my next door neighbors house burnt down. I'd never wish that on anyone.

Elizabeth said...

Beautiful words, Hart. I haven't thought about that place so much in years. What wonderful memories came from living there. This morning, as it's -30, I'm remembering putting plastic on the windows and keeping the thermostat at 12 degrees to save on our heating costs...it's was freezing in there. Not sure I'll ever again own a Foosball table. At least 46B is immortalized in Peter's "As Prime Minister" video...

Your mother said...

I'm glad you and Elizabeth both lived at 46 Bridge Street, Hart. I think its residents were the best people in all of Sackville, and I recognized it as an important part of the university experience. It is sad that no more Mount A students will live at 46. I remember going to Moncton with Elizabeth to outfit the front apartment of 46B. I wonder if those blue shades perished in the fire. I remember on convocation weekend watching from the lawn of the Marshlands as Hart climbed out his window of 46C onto the roof to show me that he could. That was not a mother's dream scene. Jiggy, sometimes I type on my iPod touch, so I feel your pain-or lack thereof. And as sad as I am about 46 Bridge, Chris, I cannot put into words how happy I am that it was not Withrow Manor.

Cara said...

Dearest Harty,

My warmest condolences are with you. I think we grieve the loss of places in our heart just like we do the loss of people. I didn't know the Sackville Hart or the Bridge street pad, but they are both obviously a big part of who you are today -- someone I love dearly! So, I am grateful to have read about them here in your post.

Speaking of...why don't you just write your memoirs already. I find myself craving a Harty meal between posts and your writing style flows so well. I think it'd be a best seller and then you wouldn't need to be a big shot lawyer. ;-)

Your mother said...

I agree, Cara. I, too, crave a serving a Harty Meal between posts. Hart's a writer, no question.