Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Going back home...
What is it to go back home? Explore your stomping grounds?

I wonder if it's a normal part of the human development to go back to where you came from and find clues or tokens that would explain where you are.

My trip to Canada is up in the air. We don't know if we're going. However, my desire to go, to take my family with me is overwhelming. I feel like it will explain so much.

The "States" have welcomed and embraced me. I feel at home here, make no doubt. But, when I hear northerners speak, when I hear snow may be coming our way, when I spot perogies on the freezer shelf at the grocery store - something deep inside me wakens. A longing to return home.

It was a simpler life. Happy times, though sometimes darkened by wounds that took many years to heal. For the most part my memories of "home" are cheery, bringing contentment to my soul.

Days playing in the woods around our home. Exploring. Adventuring. Making up fantastical stories and playing them out. Climbing trees, digging underground forts, picking berries, swimming in the river. We had a huge playground - the northern Saskatchewan woods. Safe. Inviting. Full of suprises, yet year after year offering the same thrills. Being chased by foxes, spotting the occasional truck, jumping sand dunes, clam digging, spying on neighbors who enjoyed their own adventures in the woods.

Mom would pack lunches or make muffins early in the summer mornings. We'd pack them up with the other "essentials" (what ever suited our fancy, tools, hammers, nails, plastic trashbags-turned-parachutes, a few toys, and always our brother's adrenaline syringe - just in case we'd stirred up a wasp nest... again.) We must have put on miles in those long summer days. The sun was up so early - always before me. And the sun didn't go down until well after bedtime. Back then, I could run and never grow tired. I was amazed at my own endurance! I helped restore our tree house to it's former glory, and spoke of plans for new cabinets and wall paper. (See? Even then I was an interior designer!) We strolled out further than allowed. Past the treelines, past the logging roads, always inching out further into the endless woods. We learned how to read moss. We found better berry picking, promising ourselves that we would remember where the "good patches" were. Eventually - just when we knew we were close to the north pole, we found the golf course. Sure, it was anti-climactic - but we found that if we picked up stray golfballs and sold them, we could have a buck or two in spare change that burned a hole in our pocket. So, no north pole... not this time anyway!

The auction house wasn't too far from home, either. We'd sometimes go just to see the frenzy of people and the treasures they'd lug out to their cars. A lot of Indians at the auction. The convenience store was owned by a school friend's parents. We weren't allowed in. My parents forbid it. But, out back was another set of sand dunes. (Land that had been carved out for a garbage dump, and then the local government changed their mind. Made for great BMX riding, though!) I remember the day my brothers found a dead dog out there. We were fascinated by the maggots. Jeez we needed a TV!

The empty garbage dump (we call them the "Big Hills") was a massive, exciting playground. We "parachuted" off the sandy cliffs and dared eachother to go further than the last. This was before Fear Factor. We brought our BMX bikes and rode the dunes all day long. Sometimes we'd haul dad's cinderblocks and plywood out there and make "jumps" that nearly killed us off one by one. My sister didn't have a BMX - she had a banana seat and we teased her endlessly about it. Of course, when one of us got a flat, you know whose bike we rode double on, right?

Up in the corner of our property mom had planted a garden, complete with a compost heap. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why mom wanted trash out in her garden. Though it makes perfect sense now! The freeze always came earlier than expected and mom would send us all out in a hustle to pull the carrots and any potatoes before they were ruined. The ground was frosty and my hands were red and numb but full of half frozen vegitation those mornings! There was a real sense of satisfaction pulling hard-earned carrots from the ground!

We were picked up by school bus. Mrs. Fremont was the driver from hell. She hated us. If we weren't exactly at the stop, she'd just roll on by. We'd wave frantically and then run to the other side of the property, over the hill and through the snow to catch her at the next stop. The bus was always cold and I think there were only 10 of us who rode it those 9 years I rode the yellow deliverer. In the winter time the windows would frost over with a thick frost. I'd scratch pictures or my name or just place my palm against it to watch the ice melt. The cool kids sat in the back, the bad kids always had to sit up front. Mrs. Fremont made the Indians sit up front too. So she could keep an eye on them. I hated it. She hated me. But, I was in love with her son, my 6th grade teacher - Mr. Fremont.

I always sat in the front of his classes. Answered questions, payed attention. Was the most attentive, creative, helpful little girl you could find. I just knew he'd notice and marry me some day. He was also my first soccer coach. Sigh. Too bad I wouldn't get along with the mother-in-law, right? It was never meant to be.

I attended Red Wing Elementary School. I remember most of my teachers, principal and vice-principal. I remember the ones who disliked me and those that seemed loving and patient. The older they were, the more kind they were. I remember when our gym got the big gold and brown stripes around the walls. I thought that was so cool. We'd also had a special guest - a guy with no arms who showed us how it was to run a film projector with his feet. He told us not to watch, and I was foolish enough to actually close my eyes! I was probably the only one! I had won platinum awards in nearly every health and fitness test we'd had in that gym. Except the one where we had to do high-jump. I never mastered it. Never even started it. I'd run and come to a screeching halt right at the hurdle... I couldn't figure out how to run in one direction and turn around and jump backwards. Still can't figure it out!

Recesses were cold outside. Mostly, in the dead of winter, I'd huddle around the incenerator. When I wasn't there, I was at the tetherball pole - either killing someone in the game, or sticking my tongue to it. Yes. I got stuck. More than once. A real bright child.

So... I want to go home. See if the tree house is stil there. See if the climbing tree still stands. See what they've done with the "Big Hills". See if the road to the Big Ridge is still there. See if the berry patches still exist.

I heard mom sold her last acre... the one with the garden. I may go there just to pray and thank God for my childhood. It was good. Just the way it was.


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