So, my reflections about my Northern visit were this: Prince George looks the same as it always does. I can still find my way around everywhere. It does look a little worn down. Roads are not very well taken care of and building needing fresh paint. I loved how much the same my Aunt's house was. My family moved a lot so it is nice to have that touchstone in my life.
When I went through Smithers 9 years ago (the last time I was up there), it seemed virtually unchanged from when I had lived there 16 years previously. This time it had changed. Businesses had spread to the other side of the highway. It seemed 3x bigger. The main downtown still had that cute Bavarian theme thing going on but the new stuff was mostly urban sprawl. Still it was good to see Smithers thriving.
Now Terrace seemed very depressed. When I was growing up, there were 4 mills right in downtown. When I returned 9 years ago, there were 2. Now there were none. Half of the shops in downtown and the mall were empty. Disappointingly there was now a WalMart on the edge of town. But something that I really noticed was that the aboriginal population was much more prominent. Of course there have always been a lot of Natives in Terrace. But when I was growing up, it was still reeling from the fall out of the residential schools. I knew adults less than 10 years older than me who had experienced the horrors of these residential schools. I have heard stories first hand about how they were rounded up without even a chance to say good bye to their families, how they were treated like animals and worse. When I was growing up, there really were alot of Natives with alcohol problems. You really would see them lying around, their houses and yards a mess. This time, I could see that there has been a lot of healing from that. In fact, I hardly saw any white people. It seems that the First Nations up there are reclaiming their traditional lands, are succeeding in business, are thriving. I noticed in Burns Lake as we drove through. You could still see the outline of where the letters used to be for Lake District Secondary School. Instead were new lettering in some aboriginal language with an English translation underneath "community gathering place". Somehow I felt heartened by that.
It seemed a lot more different this time than it did 9 years ago. Although then it had been 16 years since I lived there and 10 years since I had been back, it was like stepping back in time. This time, time had moved on. It was different. Better and worse in different ways. And as much as my soul longs to see those places and smell those smells and feel the vibe up there, it was so obvious that you can never go home. Sometimes I wish I had never left but I don't really wish to go back. And I reflected a lot on the effects of moving so often as a child and what as a result I have tried to do by living here in Vernon. I have wanted my children to have what I didn't - to grow up in a place. To have people know them their whole lives. I have lived in Vernon here for 14 years. That is a big investment. It is a grounding force that keeps me here. The sunshine and the lakes and the growing climate and the ski hills all help. I like it that my children can be hanging at the skate park and be pretty sure that someone who knows their mother will likely see them... I think it helps to hold them in place to know that there are people who know them and care about them who notice them in the community.
The end result? I really have to visit up North more often. I miss it so much, I need to get my fix a little closer together than 9 years.... And I love where I live and I'm not going anywhere.
6 hours ago