Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What's Your Varney?

Echoes of my memory....

 When I was a very young girl, one place and time is burned into my memory.

Varney is a blink of a town in Grey County, Ontario. Just off highway 6.
A blink and you've missed it town.

My mother's and my summer house in Varney. 1985

My father before he passed, owned a 100 bush acre property.
He was building a home on the property.  By himself.

Adjacent to this property was a wild open field.

Each weekend he would take whichever child who wanted to go, up to the property in Varney.
Faithfully I went every weekend.
For those who have been following me for a long time, know that I was my Dad's shadow.
He died violently in 1973 in a helicopter accident.

Each weekend when we pulled up to the property, Dad always gave me a step by step tour of what he worked on that particular week.
We would tour the skeleton house.  He was so proud of the big picturesque window he was putting in the living room,
it overlooked the view of our land.

Me and brother Wayne tobogganing during the winter at the house.  He loaned me the jacket and hat...thanks bro! 1985

The year I celebrated my 10th birthday, we were in Varney.
Dad died that May, two days after his funeral I turned 11.
As a gift he gave me a pretty tin box and inside were taffy candy.
To this day, I still have the box.  The candy are long gone!

One particular weekend, I was racing around with my siblings in the open field next to our property.
When suddenly I fell into a groundhog hole.  I remember crying profusely.
Dad had to stop his work and deal with a very injured Diane.
Grant you not a scratch on me and nothing broken, but I was majorly injured you understand!

Then he died and Varney was all but forgotten.

Just arrived at the house for the weekend, brother is starting the fire in the wood stove.  Mother packing the fridge. 1985

Until I was in my early 20's.
I started asking questions about our property in Varney.
Like most topics on Dad, my Mom was pretty tight tipped.
She has never talked much about him since his death and I have never pursued it.
At that time, I had a good job with the government and had all weekends off.
I then decided I was going to search for his property.
With a packed tiny little car, almost each weekend I searched....and searched.
An obsession that expanded almost two years.
Mom could not remember where in Varney it was located.  So I was fueled on memory alone.
It had been some 10 years since his death, so the memory of Varney was still relatively fresh.

Sister Peggy taking a picture.  1985

Weekend after weekend I searched.  To no avail.
Around this time, I had accumulated a healthy sum of savings.
I was a young woman, worked full-time, lived at home, no boyfriend, no commitments, I could afford it.
I suggested to Mom we go splits and purchase a summer property.
That she and I buy and own together, a summer get-away. But, it had to be in Varney.
She agreed and for almost 8 or 9 years we enjoyed a pretty Chattel style house on 8 acres of open land.
Each summer Mom worked a large vegetable garden.
During the winter we brothers and sisters would go up for some snowmobiling and winter fun.

Always a camera in my hand.  Me back in 1985

 Our property was a walking distance to Wilders Lake.
In the early years, all of us siblings were young adults and all but one was single.
My oldest sister was the only one married.
Every weekend Mom would go up to the house, I would go every once in a while, not as often as she.
Sometimes my brothers would hang out there, sometimes my sisters.
Whatever, whenever. We all loved the summer house.  We were loving our time in Varney.

Best picture in our family album. On our backyard hill tobogganing.   Me at the front, sister Peggy, my Mom the big scaredy cat, and brother Wayne.  1985

One hot Saturday summer afternoon a few of us were up at the house.
We decided to walk down the road and cool off at the lake.
As we walked, I said to Mom that I would meet up with everyone in a little while.
I wanted to walk down a particular road that I have always driven pass enroute to the house.
She said she would join me.

And as we headed down this very woodsy road, a sense of deja vu hit me.
I had been on this road before.
Then I saw it, a wide open field. I had been in this field.
I knew even before I moved another inch what was right beside this property.
I knew it would be 100 acres of bush.  I knew it was Dad's land.
And yes, there it was after a decade separation, I found Dad's property.
After years of driving around in that area, hunting for it.....I finally found it.
Without even looking for it, I found it.
Literally down the road from where our summer house was.
Coincidence, no I don't think so.  This time I think the man upstairs had plans.
I needed to find Varney and He finally gave it to me.  Simply a few steps down the road.
Maybe it was Dad himself in Heaven that lead me to mine and Mom's summer house,
that eventually lead me to his property.
It was a small miracle to me.

At the bottom of the hill. Me, Wayne, Mom and Peggy. 1985

The land itself was owned by someone else at that point.  And another house was built in its place.

Mom and I sold our summer house in the early 90's.

I don't think you have to be a psychology major to understand that I was a little girl lost,
looking for her Daddy.  It was a big milestone for me to find that property in Varney.
It gave me some closure.
However, I think I will always be looking for him, probably till the day I die an old lady in my sleep.
 Sorry to say, I have no pictures of Dad's property in Varney.


 Over the years as I raised my children I told them on numerous occasion my story of Varney.
It was a destination in my life.  A direction.  Happiness.  Good memories.  Fulfillment. Fate. Destiny.
They would always ask me what their Varney is.  I told them someday they will answer that question on their own.

Now as young adults they tell me their Varney is Port Huron (MI).
A monthly trip we would always take as they were growing up (excluding the winter months). 
Port Huron was really the broad range route we would take along highway 25, stretching from Port Huron up to Bay City.
Whenever we talk of these weekends, we simply called it Port Huron, but what we really meant was the route.
 I guess we called it that because that was the first city we entered after crossing over the Bluewater Bridge.
A route that would take us through Sarnia, were I now live today.

My son and daughter overlooking the beach at Harbor Beach, MI

Over the years we would stay in any of those cities along this route.
Just simply for variety.  For shopping.  For whatever reason.  But we mainly stayed in Bay City.
We would do some shopping, the kids would take in a movie at the theatre.
 In the summer we would travel there for the 4th of July fireworks.  We did the beaches.
We called it "Port Huron", but what we were referring to were those particular weekends.
Not ever once did we have a bad experience during those weekends.
Good memories for two very young children who lives were not always solid and stable,
 living with a single mother who had no money and financial difficulties.  And scared witless.
Those were the tough years for the three of us.  Except for those weekends in "Port Huron".
In the end, I am happy that I was after all able to give them their "Varney".

What is your Varney?

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  1. What a great post Diane. It's so neat that you found the old property while out for a walk after searching for all those years. When we were kids my parents rented an old camp on a farm in the country about 40 miles from the city we lived in. We would stay for a week although Dad would stay at home and work. In those days he didn't get much vacation time. About 5 years ago my husband and I were in that same area and I was driving and looking for the old farm and the lane that went in to it. Everything was all overgrown and although we found the little valley where the farm was we couldn't find the road or the farm. I was quite disappointed and maybe someday I'll be back there and try looking again. Or even stop at a house and ask about it. So, I guess that's my 'Varney'. My place from my childhood that I would like to find again. I enjoyed seeing your old photos too. Pam

  2. Love this post! I guess my Varney would be my grandma's house not too far from ours. I loved going there.

  3. That was a beautiful post. I have my own Varney... And it's still a bit painful to think about it... But it's also full of wonderful memories.

  4. I have felt this way about a childhood place but I don't believe I could have put into such beautiful words as you have!! I don't believe in coincidences myself but divine intervention for sure. Just this past summer my cousin and I searched for hours at the Lake of the Ozarks for a small lake property that my Dad owned in the 50's. I used to go down with him and helped him build it. He also spent lots of weekends there with us and the memories flooded back-a fantastic day.

  5. Diane ~ what a wonderful post. Your Varney sounds peaceful and beautiful. My Varney is Harrow, Ontario where I am blessed to live each day. I work in Windsor, Ontario and long for the day that I retire ~ sigh ~

  6. I think having a Varney as a child is very important because a huge expensive vacation to one destination during the elementary school years doesn't stick in the brain as much as a repetitive trip. My Varney as a child was Laguna Beach, CA. I have fond memories of that beach town and the summers I spent there with my parents. The Varney for my children is Avila Beach, CA. A very similar memory, but one I wanted to build for my children when they were small. Now that my youngest is 8, we are branching out and plan to see lots of places in the United States. Once she is over 10, we will consider an international trip. My deepest vacation memories start from age 10, except for the ones that were repetitive to the same destination. I hope that my children will have fond memories of their Varney.

  7. What a lovely story! So sad about your dad, wish you could have had more time with him. Life is strange...

    Big hugs xox

  8. So beautiful and so sad, but wonderful memories and a reminder that the people we love are still in some way with us.

    I spent two summers total in Sarnia because my father lived there, and one in St. George. But we moved a lot, so it's hard to say where I come from or where I belong; I had a most unusual experience, though wonderful, living up in northeastern Arizona/New Mexico for a couple of years, and even going to school on the Navajo reservation one of those years.

  9. Wow - quite the take Diane, and quite the journey you went on. My Varney in in Cornwall - a little village called Millpool and a little house called Polwhellyn. It was there that I was happiest x