Photo Essay

Reflections on The Doghouse

view from the doghouse

Grandpa was a handyman. He built the house my mum was raised in. It is lovingly referred to as The House (perhaps we're not the most creative bunch) and was one of two consistent buildings in my life. The other being the house my dad was raised in. Out back of The House was a big shed which I called The Barn when I was growing up and was later renamed The Doghouse. This building housed much of my youth's wonder. It was grandpa's workshop and was full of enough archaic tools and rust and sharp and jagged and dusty bits and pieces and chains and bendy nails as to make a Tom Waits lyric sound like the tea room in a doily shop. It was the type of place that gives grown-ups heart attacks to know you've been into. Well, nowadays anyway. But back then it was a smorgasbord of sawdusty wonderment and scraped knee delight. I was never allowed in the loft because I could 'fall and break my neck'. Despite the rest of the hazards, the loft was out of bounds. So I always snuck up there. Just a lot of wood stored up there. Pretty boring without all the forbidding. When we left Montreal for Edmonton in 1980 it was the last thing I saw as we backed out of the driveway. That and my grandpa hopping up and down holding his foot pretending we ran over it as we backed out. When we returned in 1986 it seemed to have shrunk. Took me a while to figure out that I had grown. It had changed a bit too, it was more 'finished'. Big ol barn doors and rickety wooden siding replaced by a cleaner, painted look and a sign on the door that said 'The Doghouse'. Grandpa spent a lot of time in there. Grandpa built a lot of things.

My grandpa passed away last week and I went back for the funeral. It was pretty cathartic and, though anglo-saxon catharsis is a very reserved beast, it served it's purpose. There were timid tears. There were laughs and hugs and cookies and watered down coffee. And there were stories. Mine was told as the eulogy (I was voted in to give it as I am the 'creative one' who can speak infront of crowds without fainting) to the room of family, friends and the few remaining veterans of the last war truly worth dying for. I was brief as that's what we anglo-saxons do and told a few stories. I didn't mention much about The Doghouse but I had spent about an hour in there with my cameras the day before. The photos will tell the story from here on.

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