Thursday, September 14, 2006

You Can Never Cross the Same River Twice

Although Munstrum Ridcully disputes this assertion, I must say that I have found it to be true in the last few months. ("Well, Archancellor, you can never cross the same river twice" "Don't be ridiculous, Mr. Stibbons. This is a bridge.")

There is nothing quite so strange as going back to places where you used to live. There is this sense of everything being familliar, almost as if no one even noticed you were gone. And then there is this contrasting sense that you don't quite recognize things -- they are not as real as they used to be. It is like when you are dreaming (okay, when I am dreaming) and you go to "your house", only its not really your house. But for the span of the dream it is familliar and you know it like you know your own house. Your feelings say "of course this is my house", but your head says "this is not what my house looks like at all". That is the kind of disconcerting feeling I got when I was driving through Thunder Bay.

The strangest thing about Thunder Bay is that, other than my parents, and a few of my nieces and nefews, no one who I knew as a teenager still lives there. All my friends from highschool have moved to Toronto or New York or Sudbury or Somewhere Else. My old highschool has been turned into a satelite campus for the local university, one of my elementary schools is now a care home and another has been torn down. My parents don't live in the same house, or even in the same part of town that I grew up in. All the things that drew me to Thunder Bay, and made it an important place are gone.

And yet, I felt the urge to drive down Court street and see my old house and neigbourhood. I went to the Hoito for breakfast and had the same Finnish pancakes I used to have. I even got a parking ticket there (a typical Jill happening). I wandered around Hillcrest park and looked and the Sleeping Giant, right above the old house where I spent my childhood. I bought Persians to share with my friend Lisa. I longed to go to Merla Mae for their home made soft ice cream (the first soft ice cream in all of Northwestern Ontario) and wander through the Comic store below my friend Lisa's last appartment before she moved out of town. I wished I had been able to bring a loaf of bread down to the marina to feed the seagulls with my son. The feel and taste of the place were comforting to me, recently relocated as I am.

I felt young again and I remembered who I was when I left at 18, full of the beauty of the universe and confident in my own ability to do anything I chose. A young woman who had never second guessed herself or, for that matter, thought before she acted on most of her impulses. The authour of a hundred ridiculous adventures that I shared with my friends, mostly involving 7-11, hamsters, pay phones, hats, a small red Toyota Corolla and a crowbar named Allouicious.

I smiled, and remembered all my antics. And my friends. And that 18 year old who was so full of adventure and fun. And I was a little bit sad.

I am glad that I think before I act and (usually -- really Nonie, I do) before I speak. And that I have learned to control my impulses a tiny bit. And that I moved beyond Thunder Bay. I can never go back, never cross that same river. But I can still taste and hear and smell the things that bring me back to that river. And once in a while, for a short time, its a good thing to do.

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