Tuesday, December 01, 2009

From Away

This was a piece I did for my friend Idelette for her Advent Adventure series. I haven't written anything substantial in awhile, so I thought I'd include it here too.

“We’re pretty underwhelming” the voice said on the other end of the phone.

I reassured him, that stuff isn’t what we’re about.

He’s the director of the Masters program my husband and I are interested in. We were planning to visit the University to see if this was a place we could raise our family. We already knew the program fit our DNA, we had no idea what New Brunswick would be like though.

When we told people we were considering a move to St. Stephen we were told by our Canadian family that people don’t move to New Brunswick, they move from New Brunswick. It’s an area of the world that has been hit hard by progress, the brain drain and muscle drain of the lucrative western Provinces with the oil sands and industry stripped much of the able population from it’s shores.

One of my mentors in Pennsylvania, upon hearing our plans looked me in the eyes and said “Oh Heidi, you don’t want to move to New Brunswick, it’s barren.”

As a woman who struggled with infertility for the first nine years of her marriage that word created deep fear in me.

And yet it still called to us, we knew deep within us that this was the direction we were supposed to head.

We packed our trusty 20+ year old Volvo station wagon and headed on an East Coast Fall Foliage tour like we could have never dreamed of. It ended with Hurricane Wilma hitting the coast of Maine as we drove up the small two lane highway getting blasted by rain as the logging trucks sped past us.

Just a small town, a tiny University, that, from our perspective, had only existed for about a month, coupled with a sincere welcome deeply soothed our ministry trodden souls. This place felt more like home in one weekend than any of the other dozen places I had lived up to this point.

We had no idea how it would happen, but we knew that this was where we were supposed to be.

On our drive home we finally got to see the scenery we had missed on the drive up. Mountains, rivers, ocean, color, blue skies - a place pulsing with life, growth and richness. There was little sign of the scary barrenness we were warned about.

We packed everything we could (only half of what we owned fit into the moving truck) sacrificing many precious possessions we knocked the dust off our feet and prayed that the predicted blizzards would not delay our arrival.

Very early in 2006 we moved into our rented home and landed in a culture more foreign to us than any of our previous moves.

How could it feel so familiar?

Why did it feel like we’ve returned?

In the end those questions didn’t matter.

All we knew was that it did. It felt like home.

In conversation with the locals while we changed our drivers licenses, plates and set up our utilities we found ourselves in similar conversations. “Turner? Oh, you must be related to the Turners out on Little Ridge?” “Nope.” We’d answer. “Oh, then ones out in Oak Bay?” “No. We’re not related to anyone around here.” “Then why’d you move HERE? They’d ask, the same quizzical looks on their faces.

We’d talk about the University, how much we loved the ocean, how warm the people were and how we needed a change. Most of the time the expressions on their faces would deepen instead of ease. We found the quickest answer in an expression they use for tourists and interlopers. “Oh, you’re from away.” they’d state as if that explained everything.

From away.

How could that be? I finally found someplace that felt like home. Even more than the place I was born. No, I wasn’t from away, I’d think. This place knows me. This place is mine.

During one of the administrative tasks of changing over documents and registering utilities we ended up at town hall. They had the New Brunswick flag hanging with it’s white sailed ship and the Provincial motto written in Latin “Spem Reduxit”. I wrote those words down on a scrap of paper in my purse and googled it when I returned home. When I found out it’s meaning I wept.

Spem Reduxit - Hope Was Restored

That’s why this place felt so much like home.

The local joke is that your family can live here for generations and still be considered “from away”. They only consider those born and bred on the Bay of Fundy as locals.

Last spring I was celebrating with friends at a local tradition called a kitchen party - lots of instruments, singing and laughter. A friend had written a song using the motto, it is deeply moving to me. It’s called New Brunswickers Arise. I leaned over and whispered to one of my professors that I am going to begin calling myself a “New New Brunswicker” and he smiled, shook his head and said “Oh, you think it’s that easy, eh?”

Last August we finally bought our home here. We are putting down roots. Deep roots. Our family has begun to discuss how we plan to decorate our new home for the holidays. It’s exciting to know that where we decide to put the advent candle wreathe and the Christmas tree will begin a tradition that could continue for the rest of our lives. We are settling in. And no matter what the locals might think we are not from away anymore.


Erin Wilson said...

So, so glad you found home :)

Kel said...

so - you from around here?

YEAH !!!

so nice to have your writing on the blog again :)

Togenberg said...

"From away" - such a powerful idiom

"Hope restored" - Wonderful motto