We moved to Newfoundland in 1994 from the burgeoning cottage country of Ontario with the expectations of a quieter and simpler lifestyle. We were partially right. In the spring of that year, Hubby had his first foray into contract policing. This meant wearing a uniform and taking down drunks on a Friday night. A far different cry than the busting down doors of drug dealers and grow operators in the outskirts of Toronto that he was used to. A few months into his new job and he had a brand spanking new concussion and bruised shins to prove it. My first impression of our new life in Newfoundland wasn’t going so well.
Our first winter found us locked down in our house with gale force winds, snow and ice knocking out power to the Avalon Penninsula for three days. Pregnant with my second baby, we were taken in by fellow transplanted mainlanders who were in possession of a butane heater. There we sat eating whatever came out of the freezer and sleeping on their floor. We were warm and fed and in good company.
The two further years we spent in the Bay Roberts area were speckled with a faltering monologue of false starts and growing pains. Mostly by me. Hubby grew up in central Newfoundland, used to its dialects and tones. I had a difficult time translating my brother-in-law’s mumbled and unsettled vernacular into actual English. My sister-in-law noticed my blank smile signaling my uncomprehending fugue. She was happy to translate and obliged by saying “She don’t understand what you’re sayin’, b’y. Slow down.”
We were moved to the central part of the island in 1997 with two young girls in tow and a whole new perspective hitting us in the face. We spent seven happy years getting reacquainted with Hubby’s family, weekends at the rocky shore and a part time job for me that permanently cemented me in the working mother category. Two years into our stay in Central, our son was born. Our family was complete. We were a young family living an island life and raising our kids surrounded by family and a stable environment. Not bad for a three to five year posting. We were now into year five and no hint of any further relocations making the rounds. We continued to stay for another four years watching our children grow and marveling at our son’s incomplete grasp of the English language. His preferred linguistic style was strangely akin to Cantonese. Just as he was regaling us with his new found singing ability and obvious hatred for anything to do with crayons, pencils or creative work, an impending move came knocking on our door and we were uprooted once again.
This time, it was back to the mainland and we called New Brunswick home for eighteen short months. As lovely as it was, our hearts belonged to Newfoundland and we were shuffled back on ‘home’ to St. John’s in 2005.
We’ve now been in St. John’s for eight years. Our longest posting yet. We have been faced with an impending decision regarding yet another move and it’s daunting and heartbreaking. Our daughters, now grown into lovely young women will be in University full time in the fall. Our son, now going into grade nine. Our children have had the best of both worlds, living on different parts of the Island and getting the opportunity to taste life on the mainland albeit, a short lived taste.
I’ve had the unique opportunity to be an outsider looking in. I’m not a native Newfoundlander like Hubby and I had some time adjusting to living on an Island when were first relocated here many years ago. I still remember the long nights waiting for Hubby to come home after his shift, my young babies not sleeping and both of us exhausted and trying to grab sleep when we could. The late night phone calls from residents threatening suicide and Hubby on call having to talk him down from the virtual and sometimes tangible ledge. The long days when we lived in Central and Hubby was gone chasing down ‘suspects’ and saying “I can’t tell you where we are or when we’ll be home.” Good times.
Those were the days I relied on family to help out. Those were days when having people close by proved comforting. Like when D2 had pneumonia and had to stay in the hospital for a week, the nurse looking after her being my next door neighbor and her Nanny and my sister-in-law taking turns looking after my other daughter and son when Hubby had to be working and I had to be at D2’s side; or the birth of my son being witnessed by my sister-in-law and Hubby and a thousand other in-training nurses at the local hospital that was, unbeknownst to me, a training hospital; or having the guys working Christmas shift with Hubby come to the house Christmas eve as I sat wrapping Christmas presents and watching Die Hard and happily ladled coffee and Christmas cake into their mouths before sending them off once again into a cold night. Yeah.
I’ve had the privilege of living in a world where crime was on a much smaller scale, the children that my kids went to school with have become life-long friends no matter where on the island they live, and we have had family close by and far away, but never completely gone. From Danny Williams’, our former and most prolific Premier’s mouth, came the phrase “Newfoundlanders have an innate sense of responsibility for their communities” and I have witnessed this several times over.
There seems to be a sort of communal outpouring of care for each other that is lacking in other provinces or even towns west of our shores. Here in St. John’s, we live in a neighbourhood that embodies that spirit. No child can walk down our street without the mother or father being friends with other mothers and fathers. We make sure someone is home; we make sure there is an adult present and if there isn’t by some happenstance, we step in. That’s called community, people. Fundraising for playgrounds, for sports teams, for Girl Guides it’s all in a child’s life and my kids have done their share. The understanding that family is the main portion of a child’s sense of self and giving that family the support it needs to sustain a life is an inherent part of being and living in Newfoundland. The past year we have seen many challenges to that family life, with the provincial cuts and layoffs, however, I have also seen a spirit here that will surpass these pitfalls with the never-ending belief that their home is not away, it’s here. Even if the jobs are scarce and the times are difficult, the young people forced out to look for work in other provinces, come back with a fervor that this is always ‘home’. We have made friends here that have become part of our family. We vacation together, live on the same streets, share the same worries and celebrate each other every chance we get. There’s a foreboding that this could all somehow end. That we could lose something or someone to change. No matter where we end up, I will have my SLS family, my family in Central, my family now on the west coast and my mainland family.
These provincial cuts have had a hand in our impending future. Hubby’s job is tenuous at best and with the thought of another move forging its way onto our doorstep, I can’t help but be grateful for the past eighteen years here. We have been able to raise our children in an environment free from abhorrent abuses of power, bullying, crime and rampant drug use. Oh sure, all those issues are here, but we seemed to have escaped their reach. The recent drive-by shooting has all residents appalled and angry that such violence has reached our rocky shores and so we should be appalled. So we should be angry. This isn’t indicative of the province I have come to know and admire. This is what happens on the mainland, not here. A mainlander I am and a mainlander I shall always be, but crime to this speaks of higher issues and greater responsibility. Get ye home, b’y we don’t want this shit here. We don’t want to be like everybody else. We are unique. We are the home of quiet acceptance and hospitality. Warm hugs and raucous kitchen parties. Tea and biscuits kind of people. We are Newfoundland. The only city I know of that when a TV show is shooting in any area of town, they broadcast the street closures on the radio and then the star of the show tweets his apologies for the inconvenience. He’s sorry that you had to detour making you five minutes late for work. He’s from the Goulds, Newfoundland. “Innate sense of responsibility for his community”. Yeah.
Thanks for the eighteen beautiful years. I’m just looking for eighteen more….
God love ‘ya.