I often wonder what to say when asked where I am from.
The temptation to say “outer space” passes and I drift to the many places I have called Home.
I have lived in 2 prefectures, 2 states and 2 provinces within 3 countries. If you’ve known me awhile, you know you should always write my address in pencil.
Last week I had the opportunity to travel to the peaceful Canadian town most people would consider my Hometown-Grand Forks, BC.
Its a charming town with clean streets, tidy yards and clotheslines in backyards.
There’s not a lot to the half-Kootenay, half-Okanagan town and what is there hasn’t changed much in the 15 years since I’ve spent any real time there.
My old high school is right where I left it.
I never took notice of the gradually swooping hillsides that formed the backdrop to GFSS when I went to school there. Even when we had PE outside or we were sitting on the grass beneath the big trees out front I just didn’t pay attention.
I was too busy being a teenager.
Too busy talking about what mixed tapes we had made, what we were wearing to the next dance, who was seeing who and how impossibly good looking George Michael was.
The corner store by our old house is still there, too.
West End was a quick bike ride away, where Mom would send us to get lemon lime pop, Big Turk chocolate bars and salt & vinegar chips. They had a freezer full of Freezies which were cherished during the hot, dry summers.
You could drop your bike on the ground or prop it up on its kickstand and not worry about it being stolen.
The ice rink where I spent countless hours learning to spin, trace, check, jump, fall and get back up again with a smile is still on the Trans-Canada that cuts through town.
As I buzzed by I saw it was renamed after someone I didn’t recognize. That normally happens if someone from town makes the NHL but Dad said this guy was a former mayor. Who knew?
I probably spent more time in that building than in my own house. I knew that place inside-out. I could flip the breakers so we could skate in the dark (it sounds crazy but it was pretty cool), I knew where the arena guys kept the keys to get into the precariously suspended music box and I knew how to rig the Pac Man video game so you could play for free.
The house my folks built is still there on the corner but it has a different family living in it now.
So many memories of porch swings and snow forts and milkshakes and “meet you at the tracks” came back to me. They didn’t overwhelm me in a flood of emotions and tears. They were just there and the corners of my mouth turned upwards as I sighed to my traveling companions, telling them Mummy grew up here.
Loki and UB came along on our little adventure to Canada and were excellent travel buddies.
It is a fascinating thing, traveling with dogs. I never before experienced the kind of camaraderie you get at rest stops when you have friends attached to you by a leash.
Everyone wants to talk and visit and share stories about their dogs. Everyone wants to pet them and ask questions about silver eyes and what possible breed he could be and gosh, he’s a happy fella and point out their 5 Pomeranians on the dash board of their RV.
Loki and UB soaked it up.
They also soaked up the attention from my Nan, who was one of the main people I came to see.
It occurred to me that Nan and Loki have some things in common- they are both adorable, stylish little old ladies who still have a fair bit of spunk in them despite bodies that might not work quite the way they want them to.
They are both a bit on the stubborn side, which is part of their charm.
And they are both reliant on the people they live with.
Nan lives with my parents now and Loki lives with us. Neither of them can stay on their own for very long, which is probably frustrating for Nan.
Yet she keeps her chin up, plays solitaire (or, patience, as she calls it), likes to dress up and wear her hats and go out and tell stories in her lovely British accent.
I didn’t spend much time downtown but we did get some good Russian food.
Grand Forks and several towns in the Kootenays were partly settled by the Doukhobors who are a peace-loving, communally-minded, garden-growing group that got booted out of Russia for refusing to bear arms.
My dad’s family were Doukhobors. You can imagine how thrilled the aunties were when my brother chose the Canadian military for his career… “It says Koftinoff on a military uniform. Oh, hospity, hospity…”
Nobody thought anything of roll call with names like Perehudoff, Kazakoff, Podovinikoff, Horkoff, Pereverezoff, Dovedoff, Chursinoff, Semenoff, Strukoff, Popoff, Kalmakov,and Malloff. Throw in a few Lloyds, Wiebes and Gustafsons and there you have GFSS back in the day.
Some of my closest friends are back in Grand Forks. I had wonderful visits with 2 of them and was thrilled to see them doing so well and being so happy with their lives, their homes and their partners.
They embraced and loved UB and Loki. Porter, the pug shared her toys with them. The 3 dogs became instant BFFs and settled into fun little routines with each other.
Friendships are meaning more and more to me as I hurtle through middle age. Even if 40 is the new 30, its important to cultivate and nourish these friendships and relationships that are special and fun. As we have all changed and grown, our friendships have remained.
Driving through town another part of my past came to the forefront of my mind as we passed teachers out on picket lines.
My dad honked his horn in support of their cause.
You don’t see this kind of thing in the US.
I’m not completely familiar with all of the details surrounding the current strike but I know the students are going to be the ones who lose out if the teachers don’t get some backing.
I saw 2 of my former high school teachers (who eventually became parents of talented skaters I coached) on the picket lines and sat with them, catching up on our lives. Even though this wasn’t my battle, I didn’t mind sitting there, watching cars and trucks go by, people waving and honking their support.
Canada is a land of the socially and environmentally aware. You aren’t persecuted for your beliefs or your differences, which is why the Doukhobors came here decades ago.
I’m not saying its perfect or that everyone is as accepted as they’d like but people and politicians seem more willing to have discussions that aren’t all about blaming each other or living in the past; not every argument boils down to the constitution, bibles and guns.
In Canada, when you lock your keys in the truck and you call BCAA via AAA, the guy comes and unlocks your door and then you all sit down and share a beer and you make a new friend.
You talk about hockey and golf and recycling and you learn that Quebec is still trying to separate. Who knew?
But you can be Far Too Canadian, as the band, Spirit of the West sings.
Which is why I keep returning Home. To this home, in Montana, which just happens to be my Home du jour.
John Denver’s lovely voice rang through my head as I thought about it- Going home to a place (s)he’d never been before. All of the homes I have lived in will feel like that to me if and when I return to them.
Its because with each year and each new address I become a slightly different person with changing realities and new perspectives.
The 16 year-old who moved to Chilliwack for college is different from the brave 19 year-old who flew to Tokyo to teach English. She’s a heck of a lot different from the 21 year-old who moved to then-sleepy Watford City with her boyfriend of just a few months.
And the 28 year-old who moved to Saskatchewan for vet school is different from the one who tries to keep her farm in Montana going when Alistair isn’t there despite never-ending snowstorms, hot-water tank woes, and being in the middle of nowhere.
Even if Grand Forks stays the same, I see it differently each time I return.
I still don’t know what to say when asked where my Home is. Maybe its where I happen to cuddle up to Loki, UB, Sport, Mulder and Cooper and where my husband comes back to every 2 weeks.
Maybe its just where I am.