I was able to come to the Wallace Stegner House in Eastend, Saskatchewan for my artist’s residency a few days early, since the artist before me was leaving to catch airline connections. I felt at home as soon as I entered the house. It is a beautiful four-gabled house built by Stegner’s father, George, in 1916, and it has served as a creative oasis for many writers and artists since 1990 when it was restored and made into an artist’s residence by the Eastend Arts Council.
Wallace Stegner’s presence is felt throughout the house, with copies of many of the books and articles that he wrote lining the bookshelves on the second floor landing, and photographs of him and articles about him hanging on the walls in many rooms of the house.
One of the photos on the wall is a reproduction of a photograph from about 1912, of young Wallace sitting on his mother, Hilda’s, knee and his brother sitting on his aunt’s knee. It is accompanied by a story written by Stegner. He speaks of his family living from move to move, and never knowing stability. The house in Eastend offered the only fleeting stability for the short time that the family lived there, and was also the home of his happiest childhood years.
In his story he says, “My father was a restless boomer, my mother a frustrated nester….Yet we were still a family, of a kind. My mother made us one by refusing to grant that we were not. Perpetual outsiders, we had no support beyond each other; and though my mother, my brother and I were often in mutinous league against my father, our relationship even with him was close and intense. We clung together. But three of us, at least, were envious of the luckier ones among whom we settled so briefly.”
I am one of the lucky ones. I had a happy childhood with parents who loved each other and a stable home to grow up in with my siblings. In today’s mobile world, I am also one of those atypical people who, well into my adult life, was able to go back home to the house and farm where I grew up .
I made this ink drawing based on that 1912 photograph.
Posted by Marlena Wyman