The Persistence Of Memory

Ellen Carter — Buenos Aires — 1929

The old couple used to drive by as I would get into my car. Without looking at me Henry Iseli would wave at me. He and his wife Leona were our neighbours from down the street. He had a little shop where he fixed and made violins. They were living on Athlone in Vancouver when we arrived in 1986. Perhaps a couple of years ago I noticed that his car on his driveway had suffered a front end collision. They did not repair it and he drove what must have been his wife’s car. I am sure they were in their 80s. A few months ago they moved out and their house was put up for sale. It was bought in under a week. We are now keeping our windows shut as the house is being demolished. I will tell Rosemary to park our Malibu on the boulevard. As the dump trucks line up on our street to receive the detritus that was a fine home our car could be sideswiped. The noise has made our cats nervous. And of course as soon as the noise of the demolition is over, it will not be long before the ubiquitous nail staplers with which they now build homes will be our garden music this summer. Relief is not to happen as the house next door was also sold. It is only a matter of weeks before it too comes down.

If that weren’t enough we have been receiving mild but persistent door knocks from real estate agents wanting to see to what state of decrepitude we arrived at. Perhaps we will sell soon. It is inevitable that we will. My only hope of escape (and force Rosemary to deal with it) is to be vaporized in whatever forthcoming airplane trip I may take.
Everybody will tell you, and we were told how fast time passes once one reaches a certain age. It only seems like it was yesterday that we moved in. But 26 years have passed. We have had the house painted twice and the roof done once. Comparing the garden today with what it looked like back in 1986 would have made the original owner Kay Young doubt it was her garden. So many of the Lawson cypresses have died of root rot and three cherry trees died of old age. Rosemary fears the day the house is sold and the excavators destroy our memories within the walls and our gardening efforts outside. I think I can safely say I can move out and not look back. But I could be wrong.

Harry Waterhouse Hayward & Ellen Carter

The melancholy induced by the wrecking of the Iseli home isn’t entirely so. Today I found (I have lost it so many times but the last time I did was quite a few years ago) the portrait of my grandmother Ellen Carter (curiously nobody in our family ever called her Ellen Waterhouse-Hayward or even Ellen Hayward). The photograph had been mailed to me from Argentine at least 20 years ago by my “uncle Leo Mahdjubian. When my grandfather Harry (in the second photograph) died sometime in the middle 20s Ellen had to make ends meet so she started a pensión. One of her favourite pensioneros was Leo, of Armenian descent; he had fought in the Black Watch in WWI and worn a kilt. He became a favourite of Ellen and of my father, brother and sisters. So Leo was “adopted” into the family. For many years well into the 70s he was our family’s low interest banker. I believe that the only way not to lose a photograph is to frame it or put it into a family album. This time around I plan to frame it.

Leo Mahdjubian & Alex — Buenos Aires 1966

And yet I think, will there be anybody in my family who will care? After a couple of generations family pictures seem to lose their meaning. But these two pictures still charm my soul but not enough to mask the melancholy that makes me wonder what happened to all the mementos, and framed (or album) photographs of the Leonis. They were childless. Once dead (and they may still be alive) there will be no traces of them (violins, perhaps?) and the new house where theirs was will remain a memory of what it was before, by their neighbours until we too go the way of the wrecking ball.

Link to: The Persistence Of Memory

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Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at:

Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at: