Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Awash in memories

The once-grand women's washroom in The Bay has been an oasis during many of my life's journeys

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Like many Winnipeggers, I have a special place in the city that I am greatly attached to, a place that, when friends and relatives are in town, I like to take them to. A spot that evokes happiness and joy every time I enter. No, it is not The Forks, with its historical importance, or Osborne Village, with its uniqueness and loveable quirkiness. My favorite spot is the Bay downtown's second floor women's washroom.

This is more than a washroom; it is a room that holds great significance in my life, and I suspect for others as well. When I was younger, my mom would take my sister and I into the city to shop, and on rare occasions we would park at the Bay parking lot and spend a few hours walking up and down the six floors looking at the various wares and goods.

We always made a conscious effort to refresh ourselves in this bathroom. At that time, it still held its grandeur of earlier and happier days, when women would take a break from shopping and sit in plush pink armchairs and put on makeup to the sounds of soft jazz music drifting in through the speakers. In my childhood and youth, this was a regal bathroom that made those special city trips with my mom much more grandiose.

When I moved out of my parent's home at age 19 and into the apartment complex adjacent to Portage Place with my two best friends, I made sure to share my love for this bathroom with them. After shopping at the grocery store in the basement of the Bay, or after our long walks downtown, I would convince my friend to take the escalator, our hands heavy with groceries, up to the second floor to use that washroom. It was in this washroom that we shared secrets and stories while washing our hands or fixing our makeup.

This bathroom was not just a room where I would go with my cherished loved ones; it was also a place where I would escape from reality.

During my early years of university, which were quite trying at times, I would find myself walking to the Bay during class breaks -- not to shop, but to sit in the plush chairs, make a phone call to my mom (using the payphone that stood beside the door) and let my mind slip back to happier times. I could have easily gone for convenience and used one of the washrooms at the University of Winnipeg, or the generic bathroom in my downtown apartment during my breaks, but there was something about that washroom, something that would call to me. Sitting amongst elderly women with perms, sophisticated working women, young mothers, and hurried shoppers, I felt accepted and at home.

As I entered my early 20s, the Bay's washroom and its 360-degree mirror and smaller, individually lit makeup mirrors, become my date preparation room. I always felt confident and dignified when I would exit the washroom and take the escalator to the main floor to meet my date. I would purposely arrange dates around the Bay's shopping hours and ask my date to meet me in the main floor of the Bay so I could spend more time prepping in the second floor washroom!

I still frequent that washroom, but sadly my special place has seen better times. The water stains on the ceiling have increased, the plush pink chairs have been removed, and the 360 degree mirror has lost its shine. As I think about the decaying second floor lavatory, I cannot help but feel melancholy. I wonder what will become of this washroom, a place that holds such great memories for me, and I'm sure for other women as well. As the water stains increase and the paint chips fall to the floor, I will not let the crumbling faßade strip me from my fond memories of my youth and my time downtown. If you see a young woman sitting in a makeup chair with a nostalgic look on her face, it's probably me. Even though my favourite place in the city has lost its radiance, its significance remains.

 

Jackie Gudz is an education student at U of W and a respite worker. In her spare time she likes to dabble in creative writing.

Do you have a

favourite place in Winnipeg?

 

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Email your story to dave.connors@freepress.mb.ca .

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 16, 2012 A8

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