|Photo from the U.S. National Archives (1974)|
I always feel like I'm home as I drive off the ferry in Swartz Bay. I love the energy on the island and how I feel grounded and connected when I'm there. I feel like I'm home even though my Grandparents have been gone for years and I somehow lost my connection with the cousins that I was so close to growing up. I still drive by the apartment building that my Grandparents lived in after they retired. I drive by the house I lived in on Shakespeare street and I head up the street to see Oaklands Elementary School where I attended kindergarten and grade 1 (and where the principal at the time was named Mr. Oakley). I remember learning to ride a bike on that street and falling off my bike and having to get stitches on the back of my head (I still have the scar). My brother and I used to line the street with dozens of acorns from the huge oak tree in the neighbour's yard and then "hide" as the cars would drive over them and make all sorts of cracking noise. We must have waited for hours because it wasn't a busy street. And the time my mom found a baby bird in our back yard that had fallen out of the nest and we wanted to help put it back but the mama bird kept diving at her in the yard.
Of course, all of these memories came after my first memory. The day my mom and brother told me my dad was dead and not coming home. My brother didn't want to tell me apparently. He wanted to protect me from being sad. Unfortunately, I have no memories of my dad but I remember the day I was told he was dead like it was yesterday. And I remember the day of his funeral too. My youngest cousin and I stayed home with a sitter while everyone else went. I remember playing quietly and feeling different. I don't remember feeling sad. In fact, the first time I cried and felt sad was weeks later when I suddenly realized he wasn't there and I asked my mom over and over again for him to come back. I remember my mom, brother and I all crying that night at the dinner table and hugging and I felt so close to them both because I realized it was just the three of us now.
When I drive the highways on the island now I can't help but think of my dad, my mom who passed away herself in 2002 and my brother who I haven't seen for 15 years. The island isn't where my family home is anymore. But because I don't have a family home I feel like I can claim part of the island as mine anyway.
Maybe I'll end up living on the island again and Baby will make that connection too. Or maybe Vancouver already holds that connection of home for her. Either way, I'll make sure she gets plenty of opportunities to see where her Mama is from. And I'll always go home.