It’s all too easy to walk down memory lane in the heart of momentary perfection, but memory lane is actually called 43 street and it’s rough to go there in person.
on the first Wednesday of January 2016, around 3:15am I left the house with my camera to document a place so rooted in nostalgia, it aches to be commemorated. There are handfuls of us dotted across the town and country who still remember it as a particularly unique neighbourhood haven. as a space of open discussion. weekend jam sessions. the obvious choice for a complementary meal provided for Heartwood Folk Music Club performers. Local and traveling musicians looking for a good cup of coffee found a great meal and the best last minute advertising they could ask for: the dinner crowd. Our existing (remaining) music community remembers how things used to be, and brings that light into each concert down at the Nancy Appleby Theatre.
The owners’ daughter, Alicia, and I, grew up in those walls each with a parent in the kitchen. We had to learn how to be kids in a workplace, and would soon work in this castle of memories. As prep, table filling, dishwashers, or bakers, toiling away to make another dozen cookies. Particular R-house favourites are the gluten-free brownies, delicious layered carrot cake, any cheesecake at all, tourtiere, quiche, and (my personal favourite) the side pasta salad.
Soon our friends joined us, from high school classrooms to kitchen coordination we had a secondary community with spats and power imbalances typical of family businesses.
In brief, this is the place that taught us to love good food, honest music, active discussion, and soulful art. It taught us work ethic, and supported the community of people sustaining good through Athabasca University. Today, it is still those people who long for it the hardest.
It was each of our first teenage jobs, that much happened by accident. Our dutiful work was informed by how much fun we wanted to have while doing it. The lives we built out of and because of this restaurant exceed any anxious expectations we may have had while swept up in a busy Friday night. In honour of this community which Athabasca built as a by-product of satisfied stomachs, I remember the Riverhouse every day.
In discovery of new communities built on similar principles, I grasp it tightly and savour each opportunity to experience love that way again.
As the town grew and morphed, many parts of the Riverhouse clan changed, but never did we think the building would be ripped from our physical understanding of Athabasca geography.
And yet, since 2012, the lot sits empty. Two deck posts remain as a framed tribute to our collective roots. I can’t help but continue to season the stew of wonder, what can we draw from it? Or must we simply let that mystery be…