Tag Archives: Alberta

WANA Friday: Childhood Home

Welcome to another edition of WANA Saturday, er, Friday, where you’re invited to join us in blogging on a common topic and going on a blog-hop to read everyone’s takes.

This week’s prompt is:

Tatiana de Rosnay has written a book called The House I Loved about Rose Bazelet in France in the 1860s when her house was to be destroyed in the reconstruction of Paris into a modern city. This book made me think of the houses that I have lived in and loved. What house, or place, have you lived in that you loved? Tell us about it.

I grew up in suburbia, so I can’t say I loved my childhood house exactly. Yes, it was home, but my heart belongs to old houses, like my grandmother’s house in Vancouver or the house I’m lucky enough to live in now.

And I don’t miss the suburban lifestyle — my current home has a good balance of public transit accessibility, nearby amenities, and backyard and other green space.

But I did move across Canada when I left home.

I miss Alberta.

(If you’re not Canadian, think “American midwest” and you won’t be far off.)

The Rocky Mountains west of Calgary, Alberta.

The Rocky Mountains west of Calgary, Alberta.

I miss the huge prairie skies, with their ever-changing clouds, their pure deep blue, and their spectacular sunsets.

I miss the fields of wheat and oat and barley, the sparse rows of trees set up as windbreaks, the big red barns all made in a particular style.

I miss the Rocky Mountains — but that’s a post for another day.

I even miss winter. Sure, it’s longer and colder and darker than winter in Toronto, where I live now. But it’s a lot sunnier — in fact, the colder it is, the more likely it is to be sunny. It’s drier and less windy. And the snow stays crisp and frozen, rather than turning into ankle-deep slush that must be waded through. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of the -30 C weather Alberta gets in the winter, but I really hate slush.

When I was growing up in Alberta, we used to pretend we were Arctic explorers (thank you, Arthur Ransome). We built forts and made snow paths with our toboggans (one benefit of having a big suburban backyard!) and slid down hills and went cross-country skiing and skating outdoors and climbed snow mountains. Even shovelling was fun…for a while!

Other WANA Friday participants this week

Janice Heck shares memories of her childhood home

Your turn! If you’ve moved from one climate to another, what do you miss?

Lessons From My Father

You know the saying — that people must be ready to reinvent themselves and adapt in order to survive in these competitive times.

My father had that covered long before the concepts of “recession” and “self-publishing” were everywhere.

In his first life, he was a farmer. He grew up on a mixed cattle and grain farm in Alberta, driving tractors and combines. Old red barn, falling-down granaries, sloughs, windbreaks, fields of grain, hay bales stacked up in long rows, one-room schoolhouse, all of that. (You can see photos of the farm at McKinney Photography.) Even when he left the farm, he worked with his hands for a while, surveying, fixing cars, on his way to a blue-collar life.

Except that’s not where he ended up. He went to seminary and became a pastor, then a pastoral counsellor and a teacher of other counsellors. By this time he was living in a big city, a father of three. Growing up, I was struck by the physical contrast between him and my uncle who took over the farm — one comfortable in suits and ties, the other weather-beaten and fond of plaid, yet with faces so similar they were almost doppelgangers. He took us into nature when he could — vegetables in the garden, hikes and bicycle rides, camping trips in the Rockies — but he had become a city boy.

But that’s not the whole story either. When his marriage to my mother ended, my father moved to a small town. He kept on the same career track and made sure to see his children as often as he possibly could, but otherwise his life changed completely. He remarried, and got acquainted with everyone in town. His new house backed onto a stand of trees that occasionally hosted deer. He cycled to work along quiet trails, then went out for long rides on the highways outside of town. Not only did he start a new vegetable garden, he became an expert in composting. In some ways, he had come full circle.

Of course, it wasn’t a full circle. To say that would deny the hardships he faced along the way, and underestimate the peace he was finally able to claim.

He was a thinker, a teaser, an outdoorsman, a keen observer of details, a teacher, a storyteller, and a wonderful father.

Today is the ninth anniversary of his death. He had only a few short years in the last iteration of his life. But I’m grateful he had them.

I hope to face the changes in my own life with the same adaptive spirit and resilience as my father had. After all, the prairie runs in my blood too.

If you liked this post, I’ve also written about my mother (who is very much alive) on the Turtleduck Press blog at My Mother, My Hero, and about the lessons I learned from my mother’s mother: My Grandmother’s Legacy.

If you’d like to read about love and loss in rural Alberta, check out my (free) short story Lonesome Hearts, also at Turtleduck Press.

What lessons have you taken from your parents’ lives?