Childhood Revisited in New Westminster


This is a photograph of my eldest sister, Heather, when she was in her early twenties. Note the blue Volkswagen in the parking lot behind her.  This was the 1970’s. I don’t know exactly how old she was in this shot but at the time she worked for the New Westminster Public Library where I believe she was the assistant to Alan Woodland, the long time head librarian there.  Oh, how she loved to read. She had a bedroom all to herself back then while the rest of us shared and her light would be on into the wee hours, her nose in a book she couldn’t put down.

In 1991, at 43, she died of breast cancer.

When I first approached the New West Public Library about showing my slides and doing a talk on Georgia O’Keeffe and the Ghost Ranch from a trip I’d taken there in 2006 and 2007, I never mentioned anything about Heather.  Why would I?  That was another lifetime ago. But, in communicating with Debra Nelson, the community librarian, I did finally mention that I had a connection to New West, that I’d grown up here, and my sister had worked at the library back then.

When I presented my talk for the second time last night, Debra gave me this colour photo of Heather that she managed to hunt down from the archives. Seeing it was a bit like ingesting Wasabi. First, a sharp pang of regret and then pleasure at the memories that came flooding in.

Heather loomed so large in my childhood (there was a 13 year age difference between us). This picture catapulted me right back into the big old house I grew up in across from Moody Park in New Westminster. I have such strong memories of her there from my childhood and how she would always talk about the goings on in the library (you can’t imagine what happens in that supposedly quiet place). Sometimes, she’d even bring a few of her co-workers who became her friends home for lunch.  So much has changed since then. Neither Heather nor my mother or father are still alive.

It was a really great little gift to receive. Thank you Debra.