Every now and then, I find myself thinking back to the days before my life was turned upside down - which was how my nearly nine-year-old mind perceived our move from Winnipeg, Manitoba to the far side of the world…Truro, Nova Scotia. “Truro? What kind of silly name is that?” I wondered. “Not grand and noble like…Winnipeg!” Forget that it is the coldest major city in the world, it was my home.
There were always things to do back then, and lots of kids with whom to do them, as my father was in the military, and we lived on base in a PMQ (Private Married Quarters). Lack of snow was never a concern, and we were kept busy building snow forts for snowball fights, digging tunnels in the snow banks (Parents were not overly concerned about cave-ins back then), and the coasting was great. I know, you’re wondering where you go coasting on the prairies? Although most of the land was flat, there was one place with a slope steep enough to provide enough velocity for even the largest toboggan…the highway overpass. Yes, I said the overpass. Cars would be parked along the side of the on ramp as families engaged in the wintery weekend recreation…even when the temperature was fit for neither man nor beast. As long as your eyes peeked out from beneath your balaclava and scarf, you were good to go. And it was always cold enough for Dad to build a rink in the yard.
Summer was just as enjoyable. My best friend, Cindy and I would catch huge grasshoppers in the field behind her house, and put them into jars before they had the chance to “spit tobacco” on us. Or we would watch as our older brothers and their friends raced the crayfish they caught in the river, earlier in the day. (Although nobody told the tiny crustaceans they were supposed to run in a straight line, they were still fun to watch.) And I remember my brother, sisters and I piling, excitedly, into the family station wagon (lying down in the back, of course, no seat belts for us) for the straight, flat, seemingly endless, drive to the “beach”, keeping an eye out for the white horse statue not far from our destination. Although we could see the statue miles before we actually reached it, it gave us hope that the end was within sight. “The beach” was a man-made lake with a sandy shore and a cement bottom. No fish, no grass. Then there was Assiniboine Park, with its English gardens, pony rides, duck pond and, my favorite, the zoo…especially the monkey house. (Perhaps I felt a kinship.)
How could I be expected to be happy about leaving all of that?
My mother assured me that I would love Nova Scotia. Both my parents were Bluenosers, and I would have tons of family to meet. Being an extremely shy child, this did not win me over. What did win me over was her ascertain that the sea air would make my hair curl. I had always had hair as straight as a stick, so it made me smile to think of this. In my over-exaggerated, nearly nine-year-old imagination, I pictured myself running down the beach with my long raven locks curling up around my face. (Unfortunately, as it turned out, even with the maritime climate, a slight wave was all that I was ever able to achieve without the assistance of a perm.) She also regaled me with cautionary tales of clam digging in the Bay of Fundy without getting caught as the quickly turning tide filled the Bay to ten times my height. Again, my imaginative, pre-pubescent brain saw me standing on the mud flats as the tide rolled in, tsunami-style, overtaking me and my curls and washing us out to sea. I was a prairie girl, what did I know of tides?
Regardless of whether I was ready to leave the endless sea of wheat fields in the west for the sea ravaged cliffs of the east, the move was inevitable. So, two weeks before my ninth birthday, my family, including a small, black and white dog, made the four day journey east.
How was I to know, all those years ago, that the tide, and all that goes with it, would become my idea of heaven on earth. From the taste of dried salt water on my lips, to the snap of seaweed under my feet; the screech of the gulls as they soar overhead, to the mesmerizing pull of the waves rolling onto the shore, I had found my true home. I guess that move did turn my life upside down…thankfully. Although I wouldn’t trade my early beginnings for anything, I’m glad that straight-haired, little prairie girl was able to embrace the seaweed and shoreline of this penninsula to become a proud Bluenoser.