As hard as we try not to change, we are doing so every minute, every second of our lives here on the planet. Trying NOT to change is the worst feeling in the world. Change is natural. It might as well be a synonym to evolution (oh wait, it is).
This is a picture of my hometown. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Coming up Connors Road, past the Muttart Conservatory, toward Strathearn and Bonnie Doon.
It’s in my rear view through a mirror, because Edmonton is forever changed for me now. This picture was taken in September 2012. I was home visiting my parents, the third such trip that year, because I was worried sick about my Dad. It’s the last time I saw him.
Edmonton is a great city. It was an amazing place to grow up – safe, comfortable, expanding, a little hick, a little slick. Living there requires a certain inner strength – particularly to get through the winters.
That last trip there, I borrowed my Dad’s Chrysler and filled up the tank, and just drove. I remembered all the places I used to drive with him – Jasper Ave. to pick up my Mum after work; 17th Street where he worked; 109th Street where Grama used to live; my sister from the CN tower, where she worked. I’d go everywhere with him. He had a little bit of the Traveler in him, and thank God I inherited it.
Dad taught me to drive – again in a Chrysler, this time a burgundy LeBaron – after getting me set up with Driver Training the summer I turned 16, I would be anxious to go with him, and this time get behind the wheel. Dad was an assertive driver – some would say otherwise, in not so nice terms, but I am forever grateful to him for helping me with learning the privilege of driving. And learning how to do it well. In thirty years of driving I’ve had two infractions – one for pulling a u-turn trying to get out of traffic on the way to my Dr’s office when I miscarried and was bleeding so badly I had to be hospitalized; the other, driving my husband’s car, and being behind a jerk who was texting and talking on his phone, and when I briefly honked to get him to go (as the light had been green for a few seconds), he went, then stopped short again, and not knowing this car as well as my own, I slammed on the brakes but couldn’t stop, and barely tapped his bumper (even though he harangued me and was verbally abusive, and got a whole new bumper and paint job out of it).
Lots of people are intimidated in the car with me. I do admit, I’ve had some anger issues, and swore a lot, and maneuvered my Mazda as if it were a Porsche, but I don’t think I was ever reckless. I’ve been in cars with drivers who are worse – not confident, unsure, so scared of getting into an accident that they’re actually a liability on the road – and I’d rather be a passenger with my Dad. I don’t think I was ever frightened when he drove.
Anyway, I got in Dad’s car, and I eased onto the roads I had once known like the back of my hand. Edmonton is a growing city, and the vast open fields and spaces, on the roads into it, from my childhood were virtually non-existent anymore. Yes, it was from growth, but also a little from that weird realization that everything was bigger, farther away, took longer to get to, as a child. I remember my Western Civ teacher telling us the one way to really realize how much time had passed and how we’d grown was to reach for the doorknobs in our childhood home. That perspective of eye level triggering memories was the harbinger of seeing how old you were.
So, with the car as my eye and the rest of the city as my doorknobs, I set out to see how much I’d grown. And how much it had changed; but mostly, how much I had changed.
The trees were so much taller. I’d been around when a lot of them were being planted, slim trunks roped to iron bars to help keep them upright – now towering above me and their canopies full and lush.
The Walterdale bridge, close to the river and the water plant, still hummed as your tires went across it, but it was much quicker than I remembered.
The High Level Bridge, by the Legislative grounds, sucked the car in to its narrow two-lane tunnel, and dumped me out right where I had my first kiss from the man I went to Boston for – the High Level Diner. Wistfulness and sentiment washed over me. I turned east onto Whyte Ave., and had to pull over. The tears were streaming down my cheeks. On my left was Gordon Price music – a favorite hangout of mine while at Grant MacEwan in the Theatre Program – I would spend many a Saturday afternoon flipping through sheet music there.
It’s also the last place I saw my Grama. We had spent the morning together, shopping, doing errands for her. I told her I wanted to go to the music store and look around, and would she mind waiting? She said, no, you go on, I’m close enough to home, I will just walk back. I didn’t want her to, but she insisted. So I hugged her tightly and gave her a little kiss, and went off to search the aisles. A few minutes later, I saw her, putting her face up to the plate glass front window, her hand shielding her eyes so she could see in, and I waved to her. She saw me, waved, and smiled that wonderful smile she had, and blew a kiss, and walked with her little boots and mink coat, home.
If I had known…
How many times do we have to say that to ourselves before we learn? Before we say “I love you” so they know. Before we look one last glance at them so we’ll remember them.
So that’s it. Edmonton’s changed. I’ve changed. Life’s changed. It’s forever colored with the memories of all these lasts. Yes, there were a lot of firsts, too, which I do remember, but it’s the lasts that are breaking my heart, that have so much of me tied there. When did it change to that? From the place of all my firsts, now just a place of my lasts? It’s painful. Maybe that will change too.