David and Marion Perry moving past effects of June flood
By the looks of the Perry’s dining room, you wouldn’t believe that only six months ago this room was under water. New flooring and dry wall give the notion that it was just a home renovation, but you only have to look down the stairs to the basement to see the disastrous damages the legendary flood caused.
With the flood the Perrys lost over half their home, valuable and priceless keepsakes. Despite losing these things, the Perry family says they are moving forward and don’t see this upcoming holiday season as an ending, but as a new beginning.
On June 20, more than 100,000 people in Calgary were evacuated from their homes due to the potential flooding. No one, not even the city of Calgary, knew just how much damage was about to be inflicted on thousands of people.
The city initially evacuated 17 communities with more added as the night progressed. Main areas such as Bowness, Mission, Sunnyside, and Elbow Park were evacuated during the late afternoon.
With six children, the Perrys decided to move to their house in Bowness 21 years ago so they would have enough room to grow. There is a long dining table that accommodates the ever-expanding Perry family. Though just David and Marion live there now, they are still visited frequently by their children.
Photo courtesy of Dave Perry
Most people evacuated in Calgary only grabbed enough for about 72 hours, as instructed by the city during situations like this.
The Perrys were not the exception to this. David Perry, grabbed a suitcase for himself and his wife, Marion Perry, and left his home thinking it wouldn’t be so bad.
“We were evacuated for nine days and for the first three days we couldn’t come to the house,” David said, “so while we were at our son and daughter-in-law’s house and I started to go through the exercise, while everyone was sleeping, of thinking ‘okay lets start writing down what we’ve lost. I did a walk through of the basement in my head, and just started listing things and that became lines and lines and then pages and pages.”
There was a huge amount of water that entered the basement. It moved its way up the stairs into the living room and dining room ¬— ruining furniture, walls, floors, and all of their personal belongings including an antique dining set given to Marion by her mother. Irreplaceable things were damaged, the items most people take for granted. These are the things that make a home.
“We also lost our table, which was also my mothers, but we have this table now which to me means ‘hey we are still here, we are still setting a table’ so this is our starting over on some level or our continuing,” Marion said “it’s not about where the table came from its about who sits around it.”
Photo courtesy of Dave Perry
Marion also said that she did not feel a huge materialistic loss and she is grateful that no one was hurt and that things are starting to return to normal.
Marion Perry recalled that when they first walked in to their house three days after the flood. It didn’t seemed like they lost anything, but as they looked down they could see the water in their living room. They both said there was a sense of shock and awe about the whole situation. Marion described it as an almost surreal experience.
“For the first couple of days it wasn’t about lamenting anything that was lost,” Marion said, “there were so many people helping we were so grateful.”
Now, the basement of the Perry household looks like a construction zone. All you can see are the exposed walls, wires and random items sprawled over the floor. In the meantime, the basement acts as a storage room for some of their eldest son’s belongings.
David said the flood is still having a domino effect, especially during this time of year. The Perrys have just realized all of their Christmas things have been lost.
“I was actually just at my friends up in Edmonton and she is crazy decorative, she had all her boxes out. I knew on some level before, but we have absolutely no Christmas decorations,” Marion said.
Though the Perrys suffered a great loss with the flood, they have persevered with their main Christmas tradition.
Over the last 33 years, the Perrys made 29 different ice rinks in their backyard. Many Christmases have been spent playing hockey or just sharing a leisurely skate out back, followed by an elegant dinner in the dining room. The Perrys often share their table with up to 20 people, including their family and friends.
Photo courtesy of Dave Perry
The tradition of the rink goes back to Marion’s own childhood growing up in Edmonton, Alta..
“I had a backyard rink growing up so it wasn’t really an option, it kind of like, ‘Honey, go build a rink — that’s what the men do,’” Marion said with a laugh.
The Perrys first started making rinks in Edmonton to teach their two eldest sons to skate. Since then, it’s been a staple to have.
It was 10 years ago when their first grandson came to them and said, “Why don’t you build me a rink like you used to do for my dad?”
Since then they have made one every year, and this year is no exception.
The rink has been made larger, and although they have no lights to string up on the rink yet —another tradition — it doesn’t put a damper on David Perry’s plan to make this year’s rink “bigger and better.”
They used to keep around a dozen pairs of skates in the basement for forgetful guests or amateurs who never owned a pair so they too could enjoy the rink.
Though the rink is a fundamental part of the Perry Christmas, it also a huge part of their neighbours’ lives as well.
“Neighbours will come over and play, coworkers, our grandkids hockey teams as well. It is not unusual to see different people skating on the rink,” David said. “But mostly you will see a father-son game or a mother-daughter one-on-one. It really just brings the whole family together.”
With the famous Bowness ice rink out of commission this holiday season due to the flood, the Perry’s homemade rink may even become the community landmark for winter memories.
To see a video about the Perrys, click here.