Hutchison Street Childhoods
What a pleasure the opportunity to participate in MemorySpace has been, enabling me to revisit the photographs of my children’s 1980’s childhood on a very special block of Hutchison Street – one side in Mile End, the other in Outremont.
What made this tree-lined block of mainly triplexes so safe and hospitable for the families living there, was its sense of enclosure – from Hutman’s grocery store on the corner of Villeneuve to the little blue and white tiled Greek Orthodox church on the corner of Berube, where Hutchison curves to the base of the mountain at Mount Royal.
The street architecture, with its unique Montreal porches, winding outdoor staircases and iron-grilled front gardens, became the physical support for the many interactions between the children and their families, as witnessed in the many photos of the children and neighbours on the front stairs and in the street closing parties we organized each June for the Fête de la St-Jean (Hutchison Street Childhoods/Street Fete).
Indoors, our ‘flats’ were relatively bright and spacious and all resembled each other’s, with large central living rooms and kitchens – features which undoubtedly helped the children to feel so at home when visiting each other (Holidays and Birthdays/Bath Time/Inside the House).
Most of the parents were involved in the world of the arts, teaching and community organizing – so it seemed perfectly normal, on Hutchison Street at that time, to live a precarious existence while bringing up children. Few of us owned our own homes (which later became a renter’s nightmare, as the original immigrant owners sold to developers who renovated and eventually sold each floor – even though we fought to prevent this).
In 1988, tired of fighting the landlords, and when my children’s father returned to France and Spain, I reluctantly moved away from this special street and neighbourhood. Luckily, we were able to return to Hutchison four years later, when a neighbour kindly informed us that a rental flat was available because the (musician) friends who lived there were able to buy on the street, next door to her and downstairs from another close family – all of whom now own their homes and still live there (photo of the three girls dancing, Inside the House).
To this day, Hutchison Street is a family affair: We have shared in each other’s lives through the years and through many changes. We have watched our children blossom into bright, creative young adults who continue to share close ties with each other and will travel great distances to be there for mutual celebrations – and, as fate would have it, my son still has a Hutchison Street address! (photos in display case)
It is on Hutchison Street that the children also encountered the world – with many mixed race and mixed religion families – Chinese, Japanese, First Nations, British, Quebecois, French, Caribbean, Peruvian, Jewish, Mennonite, and of course, Greek! This has made them open to the world, with a strong sense of community and social justice.
Having been brought up beside lakes and with access to nature, I often berated myself for the urban upbringing of my own children. However, it was often impossible to entice them off our block, with so many friends and so many adventures to share throughout the changing seasons of their lives. How lucky they are! And how lucky are we, the parents, to bear witness and kvell!