As I mentioned in my last post, I went home, to Calgary, Canada for my longest visit since I left the city almost 19 years ago. Lots of time with family and friends!
Calgary is a pretty city in a great location. To the east and south are plains with fields of canola, wheat, barley, alfalfa, and countless horse and cattle ranches. On a clear day the Rocky Mountains are visible on the western horizon, about 45 miles (70km) away. When I’m in Calgary I love looking out to the west to see the mountains and snow-capped peaks. Alas, those massive and devastating forest fires in Eastern Washington and British Columbia clouded the sky with acrid smoke every day. The smoke really did put a damper on my plans. Health officials advised to spend no unnecessary time outdoors. No runs, no strolls along the river, no quick trips up to Banff for lunch … I know people are really suffering because of the fires, but right now I’m a feeling a little bit selfish and just wish things had cleared up for a couple of days!
There were many days with lots of steps, but I managed to get in just one run early this week, and a dedicated walk on Thursday. For weeks before this vacation I was dreaming of running or walking in the morning in a cool, dry climate, but it was not to be. The one day I ran I really noticed the altitude (about 3,500 ft versus 900 ft here in Atlanta), and every other day there were health warnings to stay inside. Yes, there was walking, but much of it involved shopping and I don’t think that counts as fitness walking, especially when with your 92-year-old mother.
Whenever I spend time with my mother I’m amazed at how well she is doing, both physically and mentally. One night I watched her return to her apartment and from the back she looks stronger and fitter than many 70 year olds. Her back is straight, her gait is steady, she takes a determined step. She forgets a few things (as we all do!) but is in superb mental and physical condition for an elderly woman. I hope we have her here for many years, and also that I got those genes!
Last weekend we took a road trip up north to outside Edmonton to visit a niece who recently graduated from law school (her second career, she was a paramedic for about a decade). She and her husband have no children but they have a German Shepherd pup … 7 months old and he’s enormous. Very sweet disposition, but he has huge teeth! Their new home has a security system but I wonder if they’ll need it with this guy around.
When back in Calgary I stayed with my sister, M and her husband, also M, known as “M&M”. Sister M is a decade older than me, and both M’s are retired. Her life revolves around her grandchildren, gardening, and shopping on-line. Every morning at 10 am the door bell would ring and a at least one parcel would be left on the front porch. Their house is absolutely jam packed with stuff so all the shopping made the Marie Kondo in me just a little bit crazy! (Lesson learned – do not tell shopaholics about Marie Kondo because they just do not want to know.) They do have a good sized vegetable garden, given the teeny suburban lot sizes in Calgary. (Calgary’s suburban lots are about 40′ x 110′ on average). While their garden is near the end of its season, there were still English Peas on the vine. Why can’t I find fresh English Peas in the States? These were always one of the few veggies I loved. Okay I’ll admit it, when I found a plant with pods in a public garden, I did a little raiding and grabbed a couple. (Who remembers ‘harmless’ garden raiding in the 60s and 70s? ) Later that day a great niece and great nephew helped me to harvest the peas that were left on M&M’s plants. I think we ate more than we put in the bowl!
On Wednesday I had lunch with three women I’ve known forever. One has been my friend since we were four, and the other two since grade 1. It’s easy to fall back into a very natural rhythm with people you’ve known for that long. What was it we used to write in yearbooks? “There are big ships, there are small ships, but the best ships are friendships.”
That night I also indulged in nostalgia by visiting the campus of the University of Calgary. I grew up a block from the university so it was our playground when I was a child. In my late teens and twenties I worked for the Students’ Union, the campus pub, and studied political science. It’s changed dramatically since I left in 1988, growing from about 6,000 to 31,000 students. I decided to stop by the old hangout/workplace, The Den, and have a drink. I was disappointed to see it closed for renovations. The Den was always in deplorable condition, and frankly that was it’s charm. It’s a dive hidden away in the basement of the SU building, designed to be dark and depressing for those days when you needed a cheap drink while you wallowed in despair after blowing a midterm. Sigh … things change.
For the first time since I did the KonMari on my clothing, I had a serious shop. I’ve got Canadian money I have to spend (the US Taxman keeps harping on those foreign accounts) and the Canadian dollar is so low that it made sense to do my fall clothes shopping there. My favourite clothing store, Olsen Europe, is only in Canada, the UK and Germany so I ‘save up’ to shop there. Once again their selection did not disappoint so I am now set for the next few months. I also visited a specialty fabric store and bought a few meters of pure virgin wool for a winter coal. Then a Liberty print cotton happened to fall in my bag, as did several meters of a lightweight ivory wool. My suitcase wasn’t full, but it was so overweight that I had to buy another bag. I think it’s time to weed out a few things that aren’t as loved as they once were!
On Friday several family members braved the smoke … worse than ever … and visited the Saskatoon Berry Farm south of the city for lunch and a stroll. The farm is really charming and I took a lot of pictures, which I’ll save for a separate post. A ‘new’ grown-up cousin joined us for lunch. No one knew of her existence until about 5 years ago when her father (my mom’s brother) passed away and my mom & aunt learned about this child from his legal papers. She’s so eager to be part of our family, and has fit in very naturally. Until about 10-years ago we thought our family was immune from ‘scandals’ but they keep popping up! One day I’ll write about my paternal grandmother. She’s like a character from Downton Abbey.
Every trip home includes a trip to the grocery store. Vacation makes me a bit like Jekyll and Hyde … careful at home but junk food junkie when away. Wunderbar, Coffee Crisp, Glosette Raisins, Tim Horton’s, Bourbon Cremes, Dare Lemon Cremes, Dad’s Cookies, Macintosh Toffee and Hawkins Cheezies. My luggage contained two grocery bags filled with treats!
Nine days went by very quickly, but I was ready to come home. I love my family, but home is here with G and the kitties. When I’m in the US I feel very Canadian. When I’m in Canada I feel very American. I’m glad I have the opportunity to be me in both places.