The Visitor, A Remembrance Day Story

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I wrote this story a few years ago and post it every Remembrance Day.  It’s one of my favourites and is appropriate for today.  Lest we forget….

I watched as the plane landed with a thunderous roar, the engines coming to an abrupt halt as if the pilot had simply turned the switch to the ‘off’ position.  I stood with my back hard against the biting wind, wondering if I should prepare a salute or simply stand at attention.  I waited for some direction from my superior officer, but none came.  I believe the shock of the arrival and the excitement of having such a prolific visitor come adrift upon our rocky shores had sent us all into a wave of silent awe.

It was November 1942.  The world was engulfed in the biggest conflict known to man, the classic battle between good and evil personified by the leaders of European nations struggling to define the world on their own terms, ignoring the plight and suffering of those they plundered into despair.  Leaders who were so enmeshed in their own agendas they took no notice of the people being tortured and beaten or of children being left to die on the streets with explosions and gunfire rattling their souls, shattering lives and dreams without a second thought.   Our little part of the world seemed so distant and removed from such gross atrocities against humanity, save the work our army was doing to assist our allies.  Our shores were vulnerable and England knew the possibility of oncoming attacks, sending reinforcements to protect our rocky cliffs by setting up battlements to keep constant watch over our ocean.  I say ‘our ocean’ as if we, the country of Newfoundland, could even suggest possessing such a thing.  This living, breathing entity entrusted to us by God to forever protect and nurture, and in return permission to fish her open blue waters.  She bestowed food in abundance to feed our families, nourish a growing country and sustain our people through long harsh winters, all the while, the stars beckoning fishermen to take to their boats and sail beneath their watchful gazes, enrapturing them in the ocean’s song of freedom and peace. The salty water blowing upon our land giving weight to the wet laundry strung out to dry on the tenuous lines, the gale force winds blowing it skyward.  Salt we could taste upon our lips, and feel the sting in our eyes after waiting and watching for our husbands, fathers, brothers and uncles to return home from months at sea.  Our lives hung in limbo, much like the laundry blowing haphazardly across the blue horizon. We were left to protect our waters, land and people with nothing more than a few strong men and the good sense God had granted us to outlast the evil dictators who were waging war against England.  We watched as our men and women departed for lands far out reaching our own, with the ever present knowledge that they may never return.  We applauded their bravery, mocked the suggestions of indignant retreats and prayed for their eventual safe return to Newfoundland’s humble embrace.

The wind blew out like a blast from God as I blindly stood, tears streaming down my face with my hands frozen by my side.  The Botwood air base was abuzz with excitement, people milling about in the cold waiting for the slightest chance of catching a glimpse of his surly expression, most likely with a lit cigar firmly planted between his teeth as ashes trailed his every step.  This was the man who held the fate of England in his hands although promising years of struggle and grief, he never wavered in his belief that we could withstand the loss of lives brought upon us by Hitler’s egocentric views that embraced the inane and contemptible.

The entire world watched as England waged war against the tyranny of this dictator. The population poured passionate and all-encompassing faith into a beloved and respected Prime Minister, believing he could lead the world to victory over the malevolent force spreading across Europe.   I was excited by the prospect of meeting the leader of almighty England, but nervous he may look upon me as subservient.  His stellar military career had ignited my own aspirations of service, however I knew that I was not his equal.  His brilliance was far beyond my capacities and I was quickly daunted by the challenges of such a life during this tumultuous time. It was as if people knew this was an era of change and historic will; nations rose together in allegiance to restore peace, hope and the conviction that all people should live without having to witness death and destruction in their backyards. It was a time where the future seemed uncertain, the constant news of battles and resulting casualties the topic of every radio broadcast, but when he took to the airwaves, we rose in unison to hope the end of such senseless slaughter would soon be upon us.  I recalled hearing the warnings from the Prime Minister years before this terrible outbreak regarding Hitler’s rampant greed for superiority and his assembling of armies in the name of ‘white supremacy’.  Although he was politely ignored, Churchill could see Europe’s demise propelling forward and he was prepared to rally a nation to stand tall and fight.  His inspiring words sprang intense patriotism that only war time mentality could comprehend, and years later as he took his seat as Prime Minister, he became England’s savior as well as our guide into the dark abyss of war.

I watched in wonder as the man of whom I had been inspired emerged from the plane, the propellers slowing as the engines died.  He stood, his long trench billowing about his ankles and lit his cigar surreptitiously beside the plane’s engines.  I smiled as I watched, seeing the horrified looks from my superiors at Churchill’s disregard for such trivialities as an impending explosion from a lighter in proximity to the plane’s fuselage.  They hurriedly escorted him away from the danger zone and into a path leading directly to where I was standing.  The smile must have still been securely glued upon my face as he approached and smiled back at me.  His hat had almost succumbed to a violent gust of wind and he forcefully replaced it upon his head.  He looked me up and down as if inspecting my presence in such a desolate and isolated place and said loudly, “Hello, Sergeant!  So, how do you like it up here in Newfoundland?”  I was momentarily stunned staring into his bright blue eyes and the energy and warmth behind them tempted a reply from my gaping frozen lips. “Fine, sir” I sputtered, “I like it fine.”

 

The Abyss of Indifference

The Brock Turner case has me gutted.  The awful story of the Stanford swimmer who sexually assaulted a young unconscious woman and left her behind a dumpster.  The guy who was reportedly so great, that they posted his swimming times to get you on board with their horribly flawed thinking that ‘he’s an athlete, so he’s awesome and this was a mistake’.  A MISTAKE.  An OOPS.   Thinking an elephant can do ballet in a pink tutu is a MISTAKE.   He raped an unconscious college student. SO MUCH MORE THAN A MISTAKE.   Could have been my daughter.  Or your daughter. She is somebody’s daughter. Amidst the online outrage and social media comments, it’s devastating to think this happened at all.  Heartbreaking for the victim, devastating to think this young man feels that he has a defense and moreover, actually justified in what he did.  And so does his father!  And apparently the male judge.   There is no defense for rape.  It is immoral, illegal, horrendous and WRONG. ALL KINDS OF WRONG.  I read his statement to the judge.  He was sorry for drinking.  He was sorry ‘this happened’.  He was sorry he got caught up in the ‘party culture’.  Never once did he deny he raped the woman.  Never once did he say he was sorry for a total disregard for her well-being, her health, or her safety by dragging her behind a dumpster and assaulting her!!  Never once did he even acknowledge his responsibility.  Everybody else was having sex so he thought he should too?!  Willing or unwilling partner, conscious or unconscious it was all the same.   It was the drinking that made him do it??!! IT WAS A MISTAKE.

There were many injustices with this case, not just the appalling lack of jail time of a mere 6 months which was a slap in the face of victims everywhere, but also the abhorrent disregard for the victim here.  The total lack of empathy for her as a human being was horrifying to me.

I see the tweets from women who are angry and news outlets are running around looking for legal experts who are frothing at the mouth just waiting for their chance to trash the judge who thought it was too hard for the boy who is a great swimmer to spend more time in jail than six months.  And the father who said his son shouldn’t have to pay a huge price for “20minutes of action.”  ACTION??!!!!  WRONG ANSWER. WRONG.  What happened to people?  Has humanity taken a giant leap into the abyss of indifference that we blindly allow our kids to do whatever it is they want without consequence?  Without conscience?  With total disregard for someone else?  Really?

I’m looking at the parents here.  What makes a young man think that it’s okay to sexually assault, physically assault, verbally assault ANYONE, let alone a woman without regard to her as a person?  SHE IS A PERSON.  A HUMAN BEING.  How did he not see that?

THAT IS A BIG PROBLEM.

He did not see her as a human with feelings or thoughts or intelligence.  She was an object to him.  Something he could use at his discretion and toss aside.  Willing or not.  Conscious or not.   There is something wrong when a young man possesses such a level of omnipotence and entitlement to make him believe that anything about this was okay; that it was okay to drag a young unconscious woman to a secluded place behind a dumpster to have sex with her whether she knew it or not.  Consented or not.  Aware or not!   Or maybe he had a hunch that it was wrong, hence the move behind the dumpster thing, but hey, nobody will find out so who cares?  If that was his thinking, then that’s even more disturbing.

Respect for people who include women, children, men, grandparents, was that ever given a thought?  Community obligations?  School?  Friends?  We have to find out what went wrong that made this seem like an okay evening activity for this kid. Where did he get the idea that this was fine?  Acceptable behaviour?  And then not take responsibility for anything.  She was drunk.  I was drunk.  It was a party.  What?!  Young adults and teens have to be made to take responsibility for their shit.  I’m not just talking about school, although that’s a good start.  Be responsible for their friends, for their jobs for their community for their parents’ feelings.  People have feelings, as basic a notion as that is, it’s hard for some kids to even see their parents as people.  The parents.  They tell us what to do.  Tell us where we should be, how to behave, who to hang out with, to clean our room, to be nice to the neighbour’s cat…they also laugh, cry and hurt, feel pain.  Human stuff.   Fact.  Parents are people.  People have feelings.  So do girls and boys and men and grandpas and grandmas and that young drunk woman over there who is unconscious lying behind the dumpster!!   Remember the feelings board?  This is Kindergarten stuff.

Maybe if that comes first, then this wouldn’t happen as often.

Not that it will never happen again, there are bad things that happen to good people all of the time.  That’s life.  But better parents make better children and those children grow up to be better adults and better adults make better parents and better parents make better children; in the basic cyclical sense, this is how it is supposed to be.   AND, by ‘better’ I mean respectful, responsible, kind, empathetic, intelligent…

I posted the video below because it was awesome in its simplicity and its message.  Consent.  So in line with respect.

It really isn’t that hard.  Share it, breathe it, live it.

There are heroes to this story who should be applauded.  Not just for stepping in and helping a victim of a heinous crime, but for not even thinking about NOT helping.  There was no thought, only selfless action on their part.  THEIR 20MINUTES OF ACTION DESERVE MORE ATTENTION, APPLAUSE AND PRAISE.

Carl Arndt and  Peter Jonsson ,both from Sweden

 

 

 

 

 

Tragic Tale of The Washer That Won’t Wash 

We are running out of clean clothes. Close to three weeks with no working washing machine and I’m about ready to lose my shit. Seriously, I’ve called the company from the washing Gods at least seven times and yesterday, I reached my boiling point. I yelled…I never yell…I scared my daughter who ran upstairs when she heard me exclaim “I HAVE THREE KIDS, A DOG AND NO WASHING MACHINE TO WASH ANYTHING!! WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?!!! WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT? HUH?! HUH?!! WHAT?!” (The dog has nothing to do with washing anything, it’s not like I have a newborn baby around who poops in her pants and throws up over everything, but I thought I’d toss in the fact that I’m a loyal pet owner who likes to keep stuff clean….I thought I could induce sympathy, but apparently the washing machine company from hell is void of feelings…and compassion to pet owners. AND MULTIPLE CHILDREN. They probably hate babies and kittens and those baby chimps dressed up like little dolls, too. Bastards) To which multiple apologies came over the phone with the ‘ma’am’…I hate the ‘ma’am’ Ugh.

So, in the end nothing happened. The motor was replaced and the machine that shouldn’t be called a machine, but a lame piece of expensive- dirty- laundry- dumping- area, still sits there mocking me. NOT WORKING. “Ha-ha told ‘ya they wouldn’t help. Now you have to spend more money than what I’m worth to fix me, so I can break down and sit here and mock you again…I think I’ll have an implosion and spontaneously combust….how does Dec. 24th sound? He-he-he” Asshole.

I’m gonna have some wine and think about how best to drunk-text the washing machine company….I’ll inundate their inboxes with pictures of puppies and cute little monkies and piglets….and say, ‘THIS IS WHO YOU WON’T FIX A MACHINE FOR! THE BABY ANIMALS OF THE WORLD IMPLORE YOU TO FIX MA WASHER…THEY NEED CLEAN LITTLE DRESS UP CLOTHES!!!”  

There.

That otta do it.  

 

 

 

Over the Fence

A wooden fence bordered the frayed sandy path that ran along the property lines in the backyards of the row of townhouses where I lived. Beyond our back fence, there lay a barbed wire fence, laden with greenery and big overhanging trees. From where I stood in my backyard in the burgeoning twilight, the greenery took on an ominous presence. They seemed beckoning to me; mocking our lack of yardage and lush vegetation. Teasing me with open handed limbs knowing I could not pass the rusted barbed wire placed on the top. I wanted so much to hop the fence and wander aimlessly in that backyard. To touch the overhanging tree branches, to feel the cold leaves of the green ferns, to walk barefoot in the cushion of the grass, luxurious and cool under my warm feet. I yearned to explore the secrets the big maple tree stood to protect, the dark spaces under its trunk a haven for hidden treasures and buried dreams. The rooftop of the house owning the backyard was a grey shingle that sloped on an angle to the yard as if leaning over it protectively, ensuring I was aware of its masterdom over the lawn I yearned to grasp and explore. It warned me of impending doom lest I fall to the temptation and crawl through the hole in the bottom of the thick chain link I knew was there. I had watched neighbouring kids bend and crawl, their t-shirts snagged from the jagged edge of the cut steel link then scurry atop that opulent grass, their feet barely touching as they went. I’m sure the owners had some idea as to the hole, but no one ever made any attempt to fix it. The fence served to keep us out, however, allowed the smaller few into the domain. I remained an admirer; a true patron of the green ferns lending their hands to mine across the dusty path.
I watched that backyard grow for eighteen years, its owners changing hands, the green ferns more lush with each passing year, until finally, I could only see the rooftop. The overgrowth finally enveloped the barbed wire fence, barring my vision of the green lawn I was confident was still there. The green lawn I still yearn to wander barefoot across.

chain link night
I dream of standing in my faraway backyard at twilight, looking out at those green ferns and the dark shadows hovering over the grass; that yard that harbored so much of my childhood and longing for greener surroundings.

The Dikes

As a slang term, ‘dyke’ is the euphemism for a lesbian woman, thus ‘the dikes’ may imply a pair of lesbian women.  Not in this instance.  The dikes referred to a land mass located on the south side of town that served as a hedge for the Steele Park which was a short walk from my house, and the expanse of land on the opposite side, that served no particular purpose during the years of my childhood.  Steele Park had one lowly swing set, a hut that was used for the parks and recreation staff for arts and crafts in the summer, a picnic table, a tether ball pole and later a playground ensemble that no one could decipher or by what force of nature had put it there.  It was so convoluted an engineer would need instructions to figure it out. The summer park recreational program was fraught with arts and crafts sessions or latent walks to tour the local police station.  Touring the Chatham city police was always a highlight for the summer programs and it was especially great for those of us situated on the other side of those dikes.  Far enough to want a bus but close enough to force the kids to walk.  We were shown real jail cells with steel bars and given the speeches of crossing the street safely on a green light.  The highlight was always some kid getting invariably locked in a cell while the rest of us taunted him and debated his future prospects as aninmate.

 The park and rec staff took pity on us who attended the Steele park afternoon arts and crafts sessions, as our reputation for the ‘bad’ part of town preceded us.  Their activities were usually poorly organized since staff kept refusing to attend to our park out of fear or loathing or both. Those who did show up were ill prepared and we found them particularly boring, but they tried to engage as many of the smaller ones as possible.  Their ‘hut’ was a focus point for break-ins and more than once their supplies depleted by the wayward teens who found alternate uses for craft glue.

Filled with lush grass and large maple trees on the boundaries between the park and the adjacent houses, the park was a great sanctuary in the summer and a tobogganing heaven in the winter.  The dikes served as a nemesis for toboggan gods looking for the next big hill to conquer and conquer it we all tried. 

  Feathered with trees and spots of grass, the dikes was the perfect sledding haven with its slopey side rising at the end of the park, then reaching a steep pinnacle, only to incline haphazardly down the other side that, in the seventies, was inhabited by nothing but solid clay ground and dirt underneath a few feet of snow that had turned to a solid sheen of ice by the time the hundredth kid had taken his turn. The city later found that land as a perfect site to build a housing development.  New and upscale homes began to populate our favorite tobogganing hill.  Soon, instead of our sleds, inner tubes and crazy carpets sliding downhill to an empty expanse of hard land, if left unmanned or steered improperly, they now headed straight into some person’s backyard and newly constructed deck.  I’m not sure what housing developer saw large cash rewards for this stroke of genius, but I’m guessing his pie in the sky idea never took to the fruition he had hoped.  Those kids with the sleds landing in the upscale backyards of the new land owners, surely put a damper on the whole “paradise” idea.  Especially if a wayward kid had inexplicably managed to detach a fence post or garner a concussion from a flying Christmas decoration. 

One afternoon, a young friend who did not live in our neighbourhood asked to go tobogganing down the dikes with me.  Shy and new to outside invitations, I eagerly accepted.  I was wearing my quite unfashionable bright orange snow pants my mother had just bought that severely clashed with my dark brown long nylon coat that ‘covered your bum to keep you warm’.  As if I was worried about ass-warmth at the age of eleven. I was quite conscientious about my attire, and swore under my breath as I walked down to the park to meet her.  She was waiting for me when I arrived and I immediately noticed her matching skiing ensemble and the color rose in my cheeks.  Afraid she would notice my lack of fashion sense I steeled myself for a sarcastic remark.  She made no attempts at humor at my expense nor did she seem too concerned with the temperature of my ass.

The girl and I took to the hill with crazy carpets in hand.  Using a crazy carpet on a hill made of ice that sloped severely and littered with rocks and tree stumps, was something of a daredevil escapade about which we would later contemplate our sanity.  This journey into sledding horror proved a rite of passage, as it were, for the faint of heart and junior Evel Knievel among us.   It was also an excellent training ground for future emergency room medical staff and those destined to treat head traumas.

We made the journey to the edge of the park and tackled the dikes.  Our initial runs down the hill proved exhilarating and exhausting.  The long walk back up (which really, wasn’t that long it just seemed like forever with all that clothing on, which did keep my ass warm in case you were wondering) was taking an eternity and we decided to move to another portion of the hill to get more of an exciting and steeper ride, because nothing says ‘temporary paralysis’ better than flying down a hill at the speed of light with a slick sheet of bendable plastic under your ass and the wayward tree stump making you airborne for what seemed like minutes, then landing with a tailbone-crushing thump on a boulder the size of Quebec.   My friend took her turn and I watched first in joy, that later turned to horror as her crazy carpet hit a sheen of ice, propelling her down the hill at an alarming rate of speed,  beating her off a tree stump and soaring her out of my range of vision.  I took to my carpet and tried my best to keep my eyes open for the ride, but most of it was a blur.  I made it in one piece down to the other side of the hill to find her gasping for breath and crawling on her hands and knees. 

In school, we had taken some first aid lessons and learned the new procedure of the Heimlich maneuver.  A technique that was designed to assist a person severely choking on her ham sandwich or chicken bone and anything else she had erroneously decided to attempt to swallow.  This newfound life-saving technique was supposed to dislodge a wayward object from the victim’s throat by performing intrusive stomach-pumping motions with your fists as you bear-hug the victim from behind, whispering sweet-you’ll-be-all-rights in their ear as you pummel the shit out of them, thus, allowing them the ability to breathe freely once again.  Quite simple, really.

Seeing my friend crawling and gasping for breath, I suddenly remembered she had been chewing gum when we began tobogganing.  With the Heimlich presentation still fresh in my mind and thinking I could rescue my new friend with the greatest technique ever known to mankind, I took it upon myself to be her heroine. Rescue the would-be daredevil with precision medical attention and expert execution of a brand new technique.  I would be lauded as saving a young girl’s life.  Wait ‘til her mother finds out she was near-death, but with the life-saving Heimlich, I brought her precious daughter back to life and saved her from inevitable brain-damage or worse, death from the dikes.

I quickly darted for her and wrapped my arms around her so my fists were securely in her stomach and began thrusting in urgent motions.  She tore away from me and started yelling at me.  “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!!!”  Shocked, I backed away on the crunching snow and stared.  “I was saving you.  I thought you were choking” I replied a bit miffed that she didn’t appreciate my life-saving and quick-thinking first aid.  “I WASN’T CHOKING YOU DOPE!!  I GOT THE BLOODY WIND KNOCKED OUT OF ME.  STAY AWAY FROM ME!”  And with that, she took her crazy carpet and stomped back to the park.  I wandered home defeated, but still convinced the Heimlich could have saved her, if only she had let me.  No appreciation for the would-be life-saving first-aider in her midst.  We never went tobogganing together again.  I guess she was afraid of the whole ‘crazy girl with the orange pants thinks everybody is choking’ thing.  I hope somebody knew what he was doing when she found herself choking on her chicken wings one Friday night and I wasn’t there to put my mad stomach-pummeling fist-thrusting Heimlich-Maneuver skills to work to save her ass.  Meanwhile, my orange pants took a sabbatical and my crazy carpet was in the garbage the next day.  

I should point out Steele Park now looks nothing like it did when I was a kid.  Everything is gone but a climbing apparatus. The dikes look like a little incline with trees and a cemented path running through it and the ‘housing development’ spared the better part of the clay ground.  Instead, they covered it in sod and kept a field of green to have something pretty to look at instead of screaming daredevils careening towards their flower gardens.  Everything seemed so much more mountainous when I was four feet tall.   

 

 

  

Swimming in the Past

I wasn’t going to post any creative writing junk on this site, but I had nothing else to say right now since everything is crazy and people are crazy and you’re out of order and I’m out of order and the vending machine is fucking out of order!!!  So, here is an excerpt of a story I have been working on. It’s a bit flowery, or something.    Read it.  Breathe it.  Live it. Lament the end of summer.  Send cookies. 

KJ

 

I can hear the rustle of the reeds outside my bedroom window.  The warm breeze sends them into a hazy dance of bent bodies and extended arms.  The darkness signals night, but I am too restless to sleep.  I snuggle deeper under the bedclothes in search of comfort, my eyelids becoming heavier every inch I delve.  I listen intently to the reeds, their music lulling me into a gentle song I know will eventually be my undoing.  I try to stare up at the beamed ceiling, its dark cedar creating ominous shapes in the dark, but my eyelids flutter in protest. I turn to look at my bedroom door, painted a faded white and chipping from the summer humidity and the daily lake- watered towels drooping from atop the corner. 

 The little cottage creaks with adult noises outside my door.  The wooden floorboards heavy with grown-up steps making their way to the glassed porch to watch the night sky turn a deeper twilight as the stars reflection bounce upon the lake water or the television declare an evening news program to be concluding for the night.  I imagine they are sitting together on the little settee, having their late night drink thankful the kids are finally tired and tucked in for the night.  I long to join them, my bare feet padding along the floorboards and snuggling in between them, my head resting on her shoulder, but I dare not move.  I know they will not be upset as much as they would be worried.  Are you sick? They would ask.  Do you have a headache? They would be concerned.  My fair skinned body out in the summer sun all day; in the rolling waves tumbling atop the inflated inner tube my brothers and I pranced and jumped day after day.  Sunstroke, they would think.  Fever, they would fear.  Sunburn, they would lament.  But no, even in the days when sunscreen was unheard of, they took expert care that my fair skin would not burn hidden furtively under a cotton t-shirt, and my face shaded under a sunhat placed securely on my strawberry blond head.  I remained sheltered from swarming mosquitoes, my little body hidden inside the concave of his jacket as we ran along the dusty path during a dusk evening. Saved from myself as I was shuffled hurriedly indoors following an invitation to a young skunk by a singing of ‘here, kitty, kitty, kitty’. 

Fast forward thirty years and I wish I could go back to those long hot summer days.  We would walk bare foot along the stones to the path leading us to the dilapidated shed where the bikes were stowed away.  We would run down to Lake Ontario, our bathing suits clinging to our bodies, the frigid water sending us into tides of joy and near hypothermia, blissfully unaware of any temperatures cooler than the hot sun beating down upon our necks or the dripping ice cream cones we slurped in an afternoon meant for laundry.  I remember being embarrassed that I had been stripped down to my underwear at the local laundry mat waiting for our clothes to wash, but treated to an air hockey game and ice cream at the local variety store as if to make up for the public display of my flowery pink underwear.  That was an Ontario summer.  Full of water, sand, sun and cool nights with the reeds outside my bedroom window singing me to sleep in the little cottage that held all of us tightly in its embrace for a few short precious weeks.     

cottage

 

An Open Love Letter To Newfoundland and Labrador

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. 

That’s Newfoundland.

Thanks for the eighteen beautiful years.  I’m just looking for eighteen more….

God love ‘ya.