October 6, 2013

To Rural Alberta, With Love.


I'm a logical, rational-minded person. But I also rely a lot on my intuition. Translation? Yes, I'm a bit of a hippy-dippy-granola-nature-gaia freak. Nothing over the top, but I'm definitely a 50/50 split between my science/logic-minded side and my "oooh - let's see what the universe says!" side.

So, a little over a month ago, as I do every year, I went to see My Guy. He's this dude outside of Ottawa who does these fantastic tarot card readings. (Now, stop your laughing for a moment and just roll with me here!) I've always found his readings to be very insightful and very helpful. It's not that he predicts the future… But rather, he is able to give me insight on what's happening now, why it's happening, and give me an idea of what to be mindful of in the near future. A bit kookie perhaps, but it works for me, so I run with it. (That's my hippy freaky intuitive side saying that. See what I mean? Sometimes I can't get the bitch to shut up!)

Anyway, in my reading last month, My Guy said something casually that I didn't really think too much about. He looked at the cards and said, "Everything that's been taken away from you will be given back." What? But nothing HAD been taken from me! I mean, I felt FINE.

I didn't think anything more about it, and went on with life. I went to Minnesota and started a software project there. And then, I came back to Edmonton to revisit my past and… Well, face some dark things that had been buried for many years - relentless homophobic, racist bullying and how it had affected me my whole life. (You can read about this here.)

Well, as shitty as things were when I was between 5 and 10 years old growing up out here in rural Alberta… There really was another side to growing up here, one that had also faded in my memory. It came to light last night.


So the acreage I grew up on was part of a number of multi-acre property subdivisions scattered amongst farmer's fields, forests, and back country roads. Although there was a lot of physical distance between all of the families out there, there definitely was a strong sense of community. There were a number of women whom I remember being pillars of the community growing up. Amazing, funny, caring, loving, women who looked after us kids and could always be seen at community events… Or they would be picking up and dropping off a gaggle of us kids. Or they'd have a big group of us kids over for afternoons to play.

There was a community event that happened to coincide with my first visit to Alberta in 14 years - it was the annual community pork roast. The pork roast was being held this year to raise money to build a Memorial Garden for the women who were so important to the community who have sadly passed away prematurely in recent years. I decided to go. I was, admittedly, nervous. I wasn't sure how it would go. Would it feel weird to be there? Would anyone talk to me? I decided to go - after all, when would I get another opportunity like this?

When I went to the pork roast, I saw SO many people whom I'd grown up with. And when I talked to them, well, it was like no time had passed at all! People came up to me and talked to me as if I'd only been gone a year.

Now, granted, I'm a 6'3" bearded brown guy - so I was pretty recognizable! One gal I grew up with came up to me and after we exchanged pleasantries, without even batting an eye, she nonchalantly asked me, "Ruban, do you want to help us catch a pig that's gotten loose in the parking lot?"

My immediate thought was, "Yep, I'm home!" Hahahaha!

And yes, of course I helped catch that little pig. Almost caught the slippery little fucker myself, and in doing so, learned where the expression "like trying to catch a greased pig" came from.

The night flew by in a flurry of hugs, handshakes, conversations, giggling fits, and beer. The DJ started playing country music. There was no hip-hop, and Madonna and Lady Gaga and Rihanna were but a distant memory. Yep yep, this was a good old-fashioned rural Alberta country hoedown! I even headed into the photo booth with two of my girlfriends where we posed on a bail of hay with a pig in my lap. Yes, a real, live, wriggling, squealing pig - the same one we'd had to catch in the parking lot a few hours prior.

I went home, tired, but happy and conked right out. I had a big day the next day - I had to catch up on some work, and was flying back to Minnesota in the afternoon.

In the morning, I packed my bags, and drove to what had become my office while visiting here - my favourite Edmonton coffeehouse on Whyte Avenue. I pulled up next to a parking meter, and put the car into "Park". And then it happened.

A huge uncontrollable rush of memories from my childhood came up to the surface, coaxed out from hiding by the events of last night.

Endless summer days on bikes, in fields, running around, making forts, birthday parties, making farting noises with our armpits, and just being kids. I remembered the time a pal and I, in our youthful wisdom, decided to do bike jumps on our shitty bikes on a gravel driveway. While wearing shorts. Yes, that ended up with a run to the hospital 30 kilometres away. Snowball fights. Snow forts. Tickle fights on the bus with one of the girls from down the road (super gay, I know.) Tobogganing without the seat belts and airbags that parents today foist upon their progeny's modern toboggans. Getting excited about having a light on my bike. Playing basketball on my neighbour's driveway because they had their own basketball hoop. Running through a field of wheat. Dear GOD, I couldn't imagine parents today letting their kids run through a field of wheat today. At least, not without the farmer first having the parents sign a liability waiver and providing them with epi pens in case contact with the wheat resulted in an allergic reaction culminating in a visit from our good friend Anaphylaxis.

And then it dawned on me. I DID have friends back then. And it's not that I'd forgotten - it's that in my mind, they were simply tolerating my presence rather than actually being friends with me. With all the awful stuff that happened at my first school, I figured that anyone who seemed to be a friend to me was either pretending or just tolerating me. And that belief has been with me until I came back here to Alberta and finally saw everything as it really was for the first time.

So it's not that I didn't HAVE friends. It's that I didn't BELIEVE that I had friends.

Damn, that's some powerful shit to finally figure out.

His words rang loudly in my head right then, "Everything that's been taken away from you will be given back."

And boy, let me tell you, it sure had.