Only three days after we got home from New York last month we took off again, this time for a road trip to Northern Alberta where my mom is from. We used to visit this place at least twice a year every year when I was a kid, driving the ten hours from home, but my sister and I hadn't been there since 2011 when our grandma died. Our cousin died in 2013. He drowned in the river and none of us were able to attend the funeral. This was also the first time we'd visited since he died.It was a really strange feeling to be going back knowing how different the place would feel without those certain people who'd always been there in the past.
Stephen and I stopped in Medicine Hat on the way up, and picked up my sister Lisa and the three of us drove up North together. Lisa and I have both changed so much in the past four years and our lives have changed so much. I felt so far away from the person I was in 2010 (when I started this blog, actually), the last time I'd visited this place and I wasn't sure what it would be like to reconnect with the place and the people who knew me then, but I was happy to be going with two people who've always known me and loved all the versions of myself I have been.
On our first night there my mom took the three of us on a driving tour of the town. We weren't planning on spending much time in my mom's actual hometown, which was different from past visits, when we'd spent almost all our time in town.We saw my grandparents' old house, and the church where my parents were married 40 years ago, and the old playground and all the stores we used to visit as kids. We visited the cemetery where my grandparents are buried.
Then we drove across the river to a hill overlooking the town. It was so peaceful looking at the town and the river as the sun set. My mom is from a totally different type of country than we were raised in. It's all forest and hills and river, unlike the flat fields and open skies of the prairies where we grew up. Being together that first night in that place was like a breath of fresh air. It was a relief to be back there. My sister kept saying, "I really needed this."
Lisa and Stephen and I camped at the lake all weekend. The lake is just "the lake" to us even though it has a name. It's only a few minutes away from my uncle's farm, the farm my mom grew up on. It was great for the three of us to have our own little oasis during our stay there. We could connect with nature and each other and grieve our cousin and grandma. Our parents came to our site that first night and we all had a campfire together.
The reason we were there was for a family reunion which was the day after we arrived. It was a fun day. I got to see almost all of my cousins, and all of my aunties and uncles. The day went by slowly and the weather was beautiful. We all enjoyed each others' company and the beautiful day. My favorite part was going for walks that evening with my mom, auntie, cousin, and sister to take photos. My family has a lot of photographers in it.It was cool to be back in a place I'd been to so many times in my life, a place that holds a lot of history for me.
The day after the reunion most of my family came to the lake where we were camping and we spent the day swimming, boating, tubing, and relaxing on the beach. My uncle took Stephen, Lisa, my mom, and I on a boat tour of the lake (Stephen had never been there before) and we saw loons defending their nest, and beaver lodges, and beavers, and fish under the clear water, and a sunken boat. It seemed like a magical underwater world we were witnessing.
That night the few of us who were still around went back to the farm for supper and a fire.
My mom and I enjoyed taking photos of my auntie's beautiful garden.
The beauty and peacefulness and the eclectic mix of flowers growing seemingly wild reminded me of my grandma's old garden.
My auntie has four hummingbirds who regularly drink from this feeder which is directly in front of the bay window to the living room so she can watch them from inside the house!
We picked and ate nearby saskatoon berries.
My mom and I went for a walk and she showed me a spot a few minutes away she and her sister had discovered the summer before where wild delphiniums were growing in the ditch 10-12 feet high.
It was great to reconnect to a place that's always felt a bit like another "home," and to see people again I haven't seen in years. The day we left was my 26th birthday so I was feeling a bit more reflective than usual. I thought about how even though so much has changed in the past four years it's mostly my life that has changed, not really me as a person. Seeing my cousins all grown up, and learning about how much has changed in their lives, I was struck with the thought that they still seemed essentially 'themselves' and the same must be true for me, too. What I mean is that at the core I'm still the same as I've always been in important ways, because I was with people who've known me for my entire life, not in a see you every day way but in a know who you really are by knowing where you came from way, and they didn't seem surprised by things I said or did or how I've turned out. So either I haven't changed all that much after all, or the people who love me are able to accept that I have and love me anyways. Either way I'm good.
I think if you can grow up, pass through the phases of life, enter adulthood and still remain yourself without getting lost along the way, you're lucky.
I really liked being 25. It felt perfect to me. But being 26 really isn't different at all, and I think it'll be pretty good too.
It's good to go home. It's good to return to places you've been that you didn't think you would return to. It's good to spend time with people who've known you literally forever and remember who you all used to be when you were here before. It's good to grow up and realize that even when it seems like everything changes, some places, some people, can remind you that the important things are still the same.