Monday, 4 April 2016

Radium

"My dad taught me to swim in Radium Hot Springs," I told my husband a couple of days ago as we soaked in the hot pool after hiking the adjacent Juniper Trail. "It looks just like I remember it."

I remember.

A sunny July day in the 60s on one of our many family camping trips with our giant canvas tent. 

I remember going for a swim at the pool, me jumping off the edge into my dad's arms as he slowly backed away. My bathing suit- navy blue with a white pleated skirt. Nothing like the string bikinis on the crowd of American teenagers, much admired by my dad. Nothing like the only bathing suit I remember my mom wearing, a scratchy orange thing with a blouson top. My mom who notoriously hated the water was sitting in the shallow end with my brothers and sister- my sister who was soon to lock herself in a big wooden locker in the change room, causing great consternation as no key could be found.

My parents had already made me take swim lessons in the Dawson Creek Public Swimming Pool, a hideously ugly 50s utilitarian pink concrete block that was freezing cold and too deep for a child to stand up in. Swimming lessons were to be endured, not loved with the carefree joy I experienced in Radium. Soon that concrete block was demolished and replaced by the indoor Centennial Pool a few blocks away, the place where my siblings learned to swim. Many hours were spent there during our years with the mighty Dawson Creek Seals, That, pool too has been replaced by a newer and more modern facility. 

A piece of my history gone.

My husband learned to swim in Edmonton's Hilllcrest Country Club, one of a series of family clubs built in the city in the 1960s. Like the Derrick and the Royal Glenora, these once affordable family clubs proved unsustainable and became private members only clubs. The Hillcrest fell on hard times and was eventually sold to become a  fancy Jewish community centre. 

Just last week on impulse I used Google Street view to find photos of the house I grew up in. I showed my sister.  

"That's not the house I grew up in," she said. "The house I grew up in was a castle."

For such was the house we so dearly loved with its enormous entranceway and its open staircase and its modern European-style ash cupboards and its copper light fixtures and its fireplace that was open on both sides, one for the dining room and one for the long living room- the living room with its marvelous hardwood floors perfect for sliding along all the while yelling "Hockey Night in Canada!"

Someone else's house now. Someone who painted it green with a red door. Someone who took out the poplar and the red willow and the tamarack my parents transplanted from the bush. Someone who removed the retaining wall built of reclaimed bricks from the burned down high school where my dad worked.  But at least it is still standing, unlike my dad's lovely Arts and Crafts bungalow in Vancouver, replaced by a pink stucco Hong Kong monstrosity. Unlike my husband's childhood home which early one April day a year ago was loaded onto a flatbed truck and trundled off to Saskatchewan to become someone's summer cottage.

Just that morning I had received word that my mom's estate was finally settled and soon my siblings and I would receive the last tangible bit of her legacy. All that remains of her.

So much of this life is transient.  

So. Radium. With your cold pool and hot pool and stone change rooms virtually unchanged in over 50 years. 

Here's to you. 

Thank you Parks Canada.