50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year – Thing #10 – Return to the Place Where I Was Born

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We are born at a given moment, in a given place and, like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season of which we are born. Astrology does not lay claim to anything more.

Carl Jung

Not sure why this has been such a big deal to me for so long but after 49

I'm back! Did you miss me?

I’m back! Did you miss me?

years I finally went back to see the town where I was born. In February of 1966 I made my debut in the bustling metropolis of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan.

According to eye witness reports, from my mother, we were the only ones in the maternity ward at the time. It was a Thursday. The doctor was also in a curling bonspiel on the day I was born and he came in to see my mom and asked if she could hold off because it looked like they might make the finals. Apparently, he missed the finals. Those same eye witness reports indicate I was not necessarily a beautiful baby, but I was still lovable. Another woman came in shortly after and had a caesarean. Her little girl was all pink and perfect. I on the other hand had hair that went in all directions and a somewhat squished face. The nurses tried to put a bow in my hair – it didn’t work.

We didn’t actually live in Meadow Lake, it was just the nearest hospital. We lived in aIMG_9970 much smaller town… Rapid View… which is about 30 Km North of Meadow Lake. The joke about Rapid View is its name – if you blink you miss it.

I know my mom wasn’t happy in her relationship around this time, and that never really got any better. I also know she is the kind of mom most people would dream about – smart, fun, creative, loving, spontaneous, and devoted. My brother and I couldn’t have asked for better.

Revisiting the past

Like I said, I’m not sure why I never went back. Every summer for almost my entire life I’ve spent time at our family cabin at Jackfish Lake, which is only 120 Km from Meadow Lake, but in the opposite direction than we usually travel. For the last few summers I’ve felt a pull to go, see where I was born, see what community affected my vintage, to reference Jung’s quote. This year, with 50 Crazy Things to organize, I decided I had to go and I wanted mom to go with me.

It was a nice day and we had a lot of laughs on the drive up. I was surprised at how quickly the landscape of Northern Saskatchewan changed. I am used to rolling hills of neatly ordered fields, sky as far as the eye can see, and clumps of trees lined up to provide wind break to houses and buildings. Quickly we were travelling on a road that was thick with pine and poplar trees and there were few fields to be seen. Closer to Meadow Lake the fields appeared again and I felt relief. I suddenly didn’t like being boxed in by the forest.

My passport says my place of birth is Meadow Lake, Canada. Customs officers often ask where it is and comment that it sounds beautiful. I remember living in Ireland and using my passport as ID at the bank and other places, tellers would comment too on how idyllic it sounded. Compared to other Saskatchewan place names like Elbow and Eyebrow, it does sound idyllic, but I had heard it was a rough place without much going for it.

When we got to Meadow Lake I was surprised, and so was mom. It was a lot biggerIMG_9974 than I expected, and cleaner. Yards were large and well kept, the town actually looked quaint and almost fun. Not fun enough that I want to move there, but more than I was expecting. We got our bearings and continued through town to find Rapid View. Mom couldn’t remember just how far it was and everything looked different. She even wondered if the town had disappeared, become a ghost town. Ahead I saw road signs indicating the speed was about to drop to 60 and I suspected we were there. The joke is right, if you blinked you would miss it.

Less town and more a collection of houses with a school / recreation centre and what used to be a store, Rapid View was also very well kept, and very small. The population sign said 27. I asked mom what the population was when we were there. She laughed, and said, “27”! I wondered if they used a marker on the sign to increase it to 28 once I arrived.

My mom and dad lived in a trailer that was parked behind the store. I pulled the car

This used to be the store. Our trailer was behind the main building on the left.

This used to be the store. Our trailer was behind the main building on the left.

up and parked on the road across from what had been the store to take a look. The trailer went with my parents when they left for Edmonton. Now the store is an embroidery business. Across the street is a recreation centre and school all rolled into one. She laughed and said there used to be a curling rink and you had to clean the ice between ends because the walls weren’t very sturdy and allowed the snow to blow through them. We drove around and looked at houses of people she knew before we turned around and went back to Meadow Lake. I bought her lunch at A&W. It is quite possibly the cleanest fast food restaurant I’ve ever been in.

My vintage

Thinking back to the Jung quote again – what is my vintage? Mid 1960’s, an era of social change, a confusing war, and the Beatles. The number one song on the charts on the day I was born was, “These Boots are Made for Walkin’’’ by Nancy Sinatra (that one totally suits me by the way!). My vineyard was Meadow Lake, harsh in winter, doctors who curl, a mother who loves me. I matured in other places – we moved from Rapid View to Edmonton when I was two months old, then Chetwynd a year later, and finally Kamloops right before I turned three. I moved to Vancouver to go to SFU, then to Dublin for eight months after I graduated, back to Vancouver, and then Kamloops again in 1999. I always consider myself a prairie girl, though. I feel an enormous sense of relief when I drive back in the summer and get out of Edmonton – finally I can breathe, I can see the sky, my view is uninterrupted.

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Sign outside the recreation centre in Rapid View. Also part of my vintage apparently.

We cannot escape any of our past or our influences. Our vintage is who we are, the sum of our experiences that nurture and affect the potential for our future.

Why was this crazy?

It was crazy because I’ve thought about, and resisted, doing it for so many years and yet it was so simple. I own all parts of my vintage, the rough around the edges one, the one that loves winter and the prairies, and the one that loves Kamloops.

Would I do it again?

Not sure I need to, but the area is loaded with beautiful lakes waiting to be explored… maybe I will. The sign says Meadow Lake – Where Adventure Begins. My adventure began there, maybe there is more to come?


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