Reliving Our Past

Have you ever noticed how, as we age, we tend to think more about our past? This is especially true as we cope with a life-altering disease such as Covid 19. When the world looks so different, we are drawn to something familiar – our personal histories.

My husband, Peter, has been doing a lot of reminiscing lately. He often steers our walks in a north-west direction, where he lived when his kids were growing up. And he’s been studying his family tree which one of his nephews recently created. It’s gigantic. Peter figured out that he has 49 first cousins! And when he is not going on walks or looking over this huge family tree, he sits in his favourite chair and plays music by Italian singers Claudio Villa and Rita Pavone, from his childhood.

Watching Peter so involved in his past, I decided to get into the act too. I remembered something about my dad’s history – that he had moved to Canada as a 2-year-old and had settled with his family in Hamilton. What about that house? Was it still standing? Peter and I drove to Hamilton and found a house in an industrial area. The owners were sitting on the front porch. How serendipitous! They confirmed that the house was about 120 years old and had been built, along with several others on the street, as accommodation for Stelco workers. I knew my grandfather had been a Stelco worker. Bingo! It was the right house. Next stop – England – where both my parents had been born.

BUT… England is not easy to visit during a pandemic, so we planned a short trip to Kingston instead. Peter and I had both gone to Queen’s University, although we didn’t know each other back then. We had spent a lot of time on the campus but we were both so busy studying (well maybe socializing too), that we didn’t really know the city. Kingston has one big travel advantage right now: it’s safe! There is no Covid 19 there.

We spent our first day strolling around the campus, checking out our residences and reminiscing about our classes and friends. Most of the old buildings, constructed with local limestone, are still standing and in great shape. There are new buildings too, a mix of limestone and the trendy new building materials: glass and steel. We laughed when we saw our new library which is now the OLD library, across the street from the new NEW library. Can Our Library have actually worn out since we studied there only 50 years ago?

On the second day we explored Kingston’s scenic waterfront. There is now a beautiful pathway with reminders of the War Of 1812: Martello Towers dot the landscape, along with information plaques, benches and picnic tables. Downtown we also found great restaurants with open patios, some of them on the waterfront too. We took the free ferry to Wolfe Island and strolled between the bakery serving coffee and cinnamon buns to a waterfront patio offering up beer and nachos. But we didn’t find any appealing beaches for swimming there, so we went back to our hotel rooftop pool overlooking Lake Ontario. We had the pool all to ourselves and it was perfect. Not quite swimming IN the lake, but very close!

On the last day of our mini-vacation we were lucky to get tickets to tour the Kingston Penitentiary, a maximum security facility which had closed in 2015. We toured the gyms, the office areas, the shops and…the cells. Some of them were open. Suddenly I noticed an evil look in Peter’s eye as he suggested I go into one and try it out. Well dear readers, I knew I had to write this blog post so I resisted.

If yo are looking for a safe place in Ontario to have a little break, you could try a visit to Kingston. Just be sure to watch yourself at the jail.


My cell

5 thoughts on “Reliving Our Past

  1. Ha. I didn’t know Kingston had closed. Wonder why? That cell looks clean and almost commodious though claustrophobic, especially for two. Yikes! One look would keep me from so much as exceeding the speeding limit.


  2. Wow…you guys have been busy. You did everything in Kingston we have done. It’s an amazing city! And you
    both went to Queen’s ….great! Ruth


  3. Funny, I have been interested in my family tree lately…Hope you had a great mini trip to Kingston. Sounds wonderful. Hope you saw Jennifer too!


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