Welcome Home. The greeting was at the end of a long journey. In many ways. This was the town where I grew up, where my parents moved early in my life to find work that the south couldn't offer. I can see now that I was one of those teenagers who couldn't wait to go out and see the world. I moved back. Several times. And then no more.
What did I expect going back to a town I left 37 years ago? Would I recognize anyone?
|The Pas Centennial Parade Float|
The Pas' 100th celebration of its incorporation centred in the community complex. Headquarters. When we walked through the doors, we could see pockets of people. Like many years ago, my best buddy Sheila and I spent the day together, checking what was happening around town. In the middle of the reception area, we stumbled upon her two sisters, one who lives in The Pas and one who lives in Alberta. You can't really tell who will be the ones that leave and who will be the ones that stay.
I gravitated to the wall of photos, seeing a lot of faces I knew long ago. "Patricia Rawson, is that you?" I was impressed. When she said her name, I couldn't connect the picture I had of her in my mind. And yet she did.
A few other people gathered around; they were all from my graduating class. Our chat was brief. Too brief. I would like to have asked them what happened in their lives, where life led them.
The crowd grew. I recognized friends of my parents. My uncle and aunt. He was with one of his two daughters and her daughter. Explaining relatives to people can get complicated fast. The granddaughter was now 23; I had never met her before. How does that happen?
We wandered to the souvenir table; I picked up a picture book of the 100th centennial. Paris Cafe, Gateway Drugs, Cambrian Hotel. All gone now. In fact when I drove down Fischer Avenue, so much is gone - the park where my sister was pushed off a slide and landed on the ground with a misshapen arm, the shop where every September we went and got a new pair of shoes for the school year, the store where my dad bought his clothes.
What isn't gone...
As my family moved away from The Pas, my visits became infrequent. But always when I came back, I stopped at the lake. Clearwater Lake. This is where I brought my children for vacations. Of anywhere in the north, this is where part of my heart resides.
Coming home. What happened for me during the homecoming was a connection between the past and now. Reunion. With family, school mates, dear friends, grown up children I babysat, ex-relatives, my nephew and his family (and now I am a great aunt!).
We drove back to Winnipeg through The Bog. We found a picnic table alongside an arm of Lake Winnipegosis and ate Saskatoon pie. Around the table sat my mother, sister and daughter, my travel companions for our northern adventure. So much of who were are has roots in the north, so much of our history. I wonder about home.