I had a new experience this year, while “home” for Christmas in Nova Scotia.
…I missed home.
West Coast home.
…Things have changed.
While I spent my early childhood in Ontario and the Caribbean before settling in Nova Scotia, the Maritimes were always “home” to me.
I loved my home town and my university fiercely, and I have made many, many, many posts about how much I miss it, and how much I love the close-knit culture of the East Coast. Perfect Husband, who grew up on the South Shore, feels the same.
It used to be that whenever we traveled back to Nova Scotia, we would be hyper-vigilant to change: That store moved to a different location! That other store is gone! Someone repainted that house! They put in a STOP SIGN!
Things change all the time, slowly, but when you’re only home once every year or two you see them all at once, and it feels like you have entered some sort of strange parallel universe where everything looks slightly wrong.
Perfect Husband especially would get indignant about changes made to his neighbourhood back home (which is the sort of neighbourhood where people look out the windows and wonder “who is that?” when they see an unfamiliar car). It hurt him to see developers come in and destroy his old stomping grounds and built large vacation homes on top. It hurt more when one of the wealthy retirees who moved into those houses called the home where he and his four siblings grew up a “quaint little cottage”.
That was his home, and it has been largely plowed over and rebuilt, and he resents it.
But we have come to accept over the years that Nova Scotia is not our personal museum, and now it has gotten to the point where I am surprised by what hasn’t changed after all this time: The local convenience store is still there, with the same sign. My favourite Pita Place, still going strong. The neighbourhood houses which seem to have used the exact same Christmas lights for the past twenty years.
The changes no longer faze me. I have accepted that life goes on. I’m just delighted by what stays the same.
Nova Scotia has also emptied itself. Most of my friends have evacuated in search of jobs that suit their education level. Of the remaining old friends and relatives, I only saw a couple. Traveling was challenging for us with two kids in tow, and they didn’t have the time or inclination to travel to see us. They were all busy with their own lives and kids during the holidays and I am just not relevant to those lives any longer.
It isn’t their fault, it’s mine – I’m the one who left. Besides, with Facebook I can still chat with them and see pictures of them and their families, so maybe the need to see each other in person is less urgent because of that.
Really, I was touched by the couple of people who did take time out of their day to meet up with me when I was passing through their region. The holidays are a busy time, and the weather was not always great. So it meant a lot to me when they did.
Nova Scotia just… doesn’t belong to me any more, and it doesn’t miss me or need me. I felt strangely superfluous on this visit, except among immediate family.
But I finally built a strong support network of friends. Besides, the mountains and the cherry blossoms get to you over time, and I have started to take pride in the beauty.
I loved the look on my Mother In Law’s face on her first week staying with us last year, when she saw crocuses coming up. Just small trips around town had her amazed.
“I went to the grocery store and they had FLOWERS on display outside!”
“…isn’t that normal?”
“Carol, it’s JANUARY!”
“Wait until you see the fruit and vegetable market. It doesn’t have walls.”
And when my parents came out, they kept taking pictures of daffodils while their friends back home sent them photos of snow piles up past their shoulders.
It made me proud, because BC is starting to feel like it is mine.
I love the early spring, and the long, dry, but not-too-hot summers. I love the snow on the mountains, and the mix of skin colours, languages, cultures and cuisines all around us.
So, while I cherished every day of our time with the family, and I ate a lot of pitas, it also felt really good to come home. I missed our bed, our bathroom, and even our cluttered, toy-laden living room and minuscule kitchen.
It’s not perfect, but it’s ours.
And I kept getting texts from my friends here, asking when they could see me, now that I was finally back… back home.