The un­ex­pected ben­e­fits of hav­ing your big-city life up­rooted.

What small-town life taught one woman about the strength of fam­ily.

ELLE (Canada) - - Insider - ByMeredythCole

IT’S HARD TO KNOW WHEN YOU HAVE

reached my home­town, a log­ging com­mu­nity on the south­ern end of Van­cou­ver Is­land. There is a sign—a tin square the size of an iPad nailed high on a tele­phone pole—but it’s easy to miss after 40 kilo­me­tres of tree-lined high­ways and a for­est full of power lines. I ar­rived here with my mother and sis­ter 17 years ago, when I was in first grade, and this place seemed more de­tour than des­ti­na­tion. Back then, my mum was newly sin­gle. We had hardly any money, and we were leav­ing the city for rea­sons as thorny and tan­gled as the black­berry bram­bles be­hind our new house.

At first, things didn’t look promis­ing. My older sis­ter scuffed her jelly sandals on the pave­ment mood­ily, re­peat­ing “I don’t want to live in the coun­try” like it was a spell that would take us back to the city where we’d lived our whole lives. But you can’t go back home when you are in the mid­dle of mak­ing a new one. Our lives in Van­cou­ver, in an area so ritzy our neigh­bours kept horses, had ex­pired. The city was full of bad mem­o­ries and ex­pen­sive rents; mov­ing was both prag­matic and un­avoid­able. As a sev­enyear-old, I was dreamy but far from obliv­i­ous—it must have re­quired sig­nif­i­cant stage manag­ing for my mother h

to fi­nal­ize a di­vorce, move house and eu­th­a­nize the fam­ily pet with me hardly notic­ing. She made sure that the change played out more as an un­ex­pected hol­i­day than a set­back, and, some­how, this vor­tex of up­heaval largely passed me by.

It helped that ev­ery­where I looked, some­thing was wait­ing to re­draw the mar­gins of my com­fort zone. Our new rental home had no cen­tral heat­ing and con­sid­er­able quirks: A chunk of the mould­ing on the wall of the liv­ing room popped off to re­veal a hid­den stash of whisky. Ev­ery­thing bumped up against the wilder­ness. A por­tion of my el­e­men­tary-school cur­ricu­lum cen­tred on what to do if you saw a cougar. One day, a bear wan­dered the aisles of the con­ve­nience store eat­ing maple-cream cook­ies, per­haps as bored as the lo­cal teenagers. I learned to swim in a lake, bob­bing like an ap­ple in the chilly wa­ter as late as Novem­ber. I was out­doors as of­ten as I was in. Be­tween fights, my sis­ter and I stacked wood in a lean-to next to our old ma­roon beater. We only had one tele­vi­sion chan­nel (per­versely, the TV guide), so my free time was spent hik­ing in the woods or build­ing “fairy houses” by the creek. Even though the life­style was idyl

A 75% larger lic, as the years back* went pro­videsby, I started to adopt my up sis­ter’sto 10 view hour­sof things. I re­sented missin­gof pro­tec­tion,out on city life and started mak­ingso you bids can for free­dom, even beg­ging sleepmy mother through to send me to board­ing the school. night. Even­tu­ally, at the age of 20, I moved back to the city I’d missed so much. It was here, vs. Al­ways Ul­tra Thin Reg­u­lar with wings

away from my small-town ex­is­tence, © Proc­ter & Gam­ble, 2017 that I started to see my ru­ral child­hood more clearly than when I’d lived it. The whimsy I’d grown up with had never seemed re­mark­able un­til other peo­ple found it so. And while there is al­most al­ways com­fort and sweet­ness in the places where we grew up, for me, my home­town is more than just a quaint, quiet es­cape. It’s a place that re­minds me of how re­silient the women in my fam­ily are, and it in­spires me to have the same re­source­ful­ness. When I re-eval­u­ated the place where I grew up, I had to re-eval­u­ate my mother’s role in rais­ing me there. I re­al­ized that, as bliss­ful as my child­hood in the coun­try seemed, it was my mother who’d made it that way. At home, my mum was for­ever cre­at­ing patches of life in our lit­tle house—whether it was by bak­ing sour­dough bread or build­ing a ter­rar­ium full of tad­poles— even as she was work­ing to get her own life back on track. She’d turned a come­down into an ad­ven­ture, cul­ti­vat­ing sta­bil­ity in the most tur­bu­lent time of our lives.

What was her se­cret? Aside from choos­ing a tran­quil town, at once lakeside and moun­tain-shad­owed, my mother man­aged tough times by mov­ing re­lent­lessly for­ward. She showed me that a cri­sis doesn’t have to con­sume you. She started her own business from a nook in the corner of her bed­room, a place so drafty she got chilblains in the win­ter. She chopped wood, tended a gar­den, man­aged two brit­tle, bick­er­ing chil­dren and cooked artful, morale-boost­ing meals. Watch­ing my mother cre­ate a new life from scratch taught me how pow­er­ful a fresh start can be and how much agency we have in our lives. How lucky my sis­ter and I were to see some­one take a re­ver­sal of for­tune and re­verse it again, mak­ing some­thing lovely from loss.

To­day, when I go home to visit my mum and drive that fa­mil­iar stretch of high­way, past power lines and the tele­phone pole with the tin sign, I find it hard to imagine how our lives would have turned out if we’d stayed in Van­cou­ver. My adopted home­town proved that de­tours can turn out to be di­rect routes to some­where beau­ti­ful. The most nur­tur­ing place in the world is just be­fore the pub­lic road ends, on the out­skirts of an empty sawmill, and it’s closer to my heart than any city. n

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