i went home this weekend.
i haven’t thought of it that way in a long, long, long time. the last time i lived there was when i was 17, when i moved into the city for university. i went home often for holidays and visits to my mom and to bring friends home to visit the orchard and hang out, but never lived there again. it always felt a little empty after my dad died. no smell of white owl cigars, no accented english calling us, no exotic cars populating the driveway ( a bentley for the drive to camp? still do not know how he found that baby ), no sound of the hammer going on a never ending list of improvements to the old apple barn.
and i have my own home now, as out of the way and socially challenging to my kids as my house in the orchard was to me. how i swore i would never do that to my own kids…and yet, here i am, as isolated as i was then. and now i understand the reasons why. my kids don’t.
but back to saturday. it was a simple affair – the 50th anniversary of my elementary school. i had meant to return so many times to visit, as i do suffer from a nostalgic heart, but the time never seemed right. and i almost let the chance pass as well this weekend, only really deciding to go the night before, when jake decided to come with me. he wanted to see my old school…but more importantly, climb the mountain i loved so as a child.
the drive passed quickly, listening to the stories from my somewhat quirky and always entertaining eldest…and before i knew it, the mountain came into view. i missed a turn off of the champlain bridge and chose a route i had not taken in years, along the richelieu river, into otterburn park, passing the haunts of my childhood. and then we were in the shadow of the mountain.
it is not a huge mountain. it is not spectacular or majestic. but to me it is beautiful, holding the lore of two families, one french and one english, on it’s slopes. so many stories…my dad, his cousins and cars, my mom’s rambunctious siblings, my grandfather’s antiquing, my grandmother singing “another saddle hanging on the wall”, the campground belonging to my grandmaman and grandpapa, the one with the cabane a sucre and the inground pool ( a huge novelty with our rural means ), and my house, my home…
as i drove jake along the winding road i grew up on, i was amazed at how much smaller everything seemed even “castle ugly”, the haunted house of my childhood, up the road from my place seemed almost quaint…not at all imposing as it once was in my 9 year old imagination. the road was still as precarious as ever, but the drive was heady with the smell of apple blossoms. orchards surrounded us.
and then there it was. as barn red as ever, holding tight to it’s lowly roots as a storage building for the apples harvested from around it, bought and converted by my dad for my mom after their marriage. it is a vineyard now, “un vignoble artisanale”, making the most of the fertile grounds. the new owners swear that the wine tastes like apples, that the grapes share some of the history of the orchard with every harvest.
i drove by a few times, making sure i drank in the view. the tree we planted above my father’s ashes is still there. i don’t want it ever to not be there, but the new owners do not know the history of that tree…so the chance always exists that one day it will be removed, and with it…well, i guess nothing now.
and then we joined the others and climbed the mountain.
the company was good but i could not reach the top fast enough. i had not been to the summit, the “pain de sucre”, in so, so many years. as kids we trudged, ran, sprinted, crawled, hopped to the top with great regularity. you live on a mountain, you climb it. alot.
as an adult? you struggle a bit, rest once or twice…but when you crest the top, you appreciate the view more than you ever could as a child.
i was overlooking the beloved orchards, the streets, the school, all the first the places of my life. both homes of my grandparents were in view. my whole wonderful childhood was there.
and i was happy:).