I visited my hometown of Strathroy, Ont. this spring and it had been several years since I was there.
This time I reconnected with friends. I had lunch with one I hadn’t seen since Grade 13, another I spent the afternoon with walking our old neighborhood and then driving around checking out new developments and the cemetery where my dad is buried. It was a great venture down memory lane connecting with these dear friends, revisiting experiences and learning about people who had been part of my life. Dinner was spent with four friends and we did the same. I stayed the night at an old pal’s and then had lunch the next day with my Grade 7 besty.
The area I grew up in was small enough to feel safe and offer the comfort of familiar faces, and large enough to provide great recreation and good schools.
At different times in my life connecting with my hometown has been really important to me. As a young woman I left after high school and moved to London, 40 minutes away, to go to university and then the gypsy life began of Fort McMurray, London, Los Angeles, Toronto, a tour of the states then Key West, then Grand Bend, Banff, London, and the past 26 years here in Vernon. During the years, I have visited Strathroy at different times to ground myself in my home town and seek out the company of those who knew me as a young person with big dreams.
My mom left shortly after I moved and none of my siblings stayed there although my younger brother lives close by and he keeps me informed of local gossip: the successes and triumphs of friends and their families, who married whom, had kids, or sadly who died.
I knew as a young person I would not stay there. I felt the call of the wild west early since at 15 I had spent a summer in Invermere, B.C. working at Jessie’s Pancake house and a motel my brother managed. After that experience I knew BC or Alberta was where I wanted to be, not for the amazing job opportunities, but for the natural beauty.
Having two of my hometown dinner companions visit me this past week and learning about their lives since high school has been fantastic: to know them as the women they have become. Our friendship began in Grade 4 when we moved off the farm, and we remained friends throughout our school years. It was fun to remember this and that experience and our perceptions of these, learning about people I have not really thought about for 40 years yet were an important part of my formative years. Falling in to step so easily with each other is even better and having them spend a weekend with my friends now was fun and easy.
Strathroy is my home town and I say that proudly. It provided a warm nest for me to grow, to face challenges and see them through. I am a resilient person and a strong family life, and caring community contributed to that.
Vernon is my son’s home town and I suspect that one of them will never live here again although he visits often and I suspect his path will be similar to his mother’s gypsy life. The other will venture here and there and perhaps this will be his long-term community. They too were raised in a great place that offered opportunities, support and a safety net for which we are grateful.
Our home towns: love them or hate them, they are your history. I think I hear Bruce Springsteen singing in my head.
Michele Blais has worked with children and families in the North Okanagan for the past 29 years. She is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday