Adventuring with my dog was one of the highlights of my summer. No, I didn’t use copy-paste in any of these images. He just knows his angles.
It is a very exciting time to be a Winnipegger. Either current or former, hometown or transplant, we all rise together in cheering our team as they dominate the nation's sport.
In celebration of this special time, new merchandise has been added to my online shop. Visit society6.com/oblada to purchase.
When I was twelve I said "goodbye" to Parc La Salle elementary school, where I had much developmental growth from kindergarten to grade six, and entered St. Norbert Collegiate. This institution incorporated the spectrum of learning from junior high all the way up to senior year of graduation. Twelve year olds to those legally permitted to drink. It was, of course, not an entirely academic education. As I've always been a very observant, intuitive person, I learned a lot about life early on.
The school bus stop was across the street from my house and in this transitionary year, I recall being early every morning and watching as my fellow older classmates would arrive disinterested, dishevelled and often late. It seemed school went from being a fun social hub to the bane of our kindred existence (it took me to the age of fourteen to get to this mindset). There was a former best friend, K, who went out of her way to ignore me. She was a few years older than I and we were playmates in our younger years, my Barbie collection being the envy of the neighbourhood after all. Right now though, I was a junior and she had her own tribe. Being friends with me would be akin to babysitting. Just one look at our sharply contrasted appearance – me with clean pressed tucked-in shirts and her modelling various Metallica tees cooly draped over torn jeans – was all the reason needed why it would never work.
There was another older girl, M, that befriended me though. She was new to the area and probably sensed that we could be losers together. I recall attending my first after-hours dance with her. I was so excited to have graduated from mimicking Janet Jackson's moves in my parent's basement to now getting to show them off to others. I ensured my outfit was perfect; a white body suit with red Guess jeans that I saved up multiple allowances to purchase. At this age – let me remind you that I was twelve – I was not interested in sexualizing myself. I didn't know how. I was simply desperate to be seen as "cool" to a group of peers and I knew that somehow involved designer jeans and the ability to sip Orange Crush like a mimosa. After dancing to the "Humpty Dance" (the lyrics of which I didn't understand), I was flattered and admittedly surprised when my new friend told me that a number of guys from her grade wanted to meet me. I very (very) shyly obliged foolishly thinking that they had heard about my high grade point average and were not simply mesmerized by the fact that my white bodysuit top had become see-through in the lighting of the dance hall and that my braless non-existent breasts were on full display. No, I learned that later. For that evening though, I was simply happy to be popular. Even K noticed the shift in high school hierarchy.
At the bus stop, I also remember observing young love. There was a boy, D, who lived the next Bay over. Outside of our morning commute, I only knew him as one of the dudes who would play street hockey in our shared backlane. He represented middle-class Canadiana right down to the hoser haircut. While his girlfriend didn't live anywhere near this particular bus stop, she would put forth the effort each morning to meet him there so that they could ride together. Her background was very different. She had come from a broken home and was weaving her way through the foster system. I knew of a number of these students. They seemed to emerge and then dissipate with little notice. I always imagined how difficult it would be to live such a transient existence during a period of life where stability is so precious. Despite this couple's differences though, they had found something. I remember how he looked at her, that deep gaze of appreciation and wonder that I always longed to feel myself because in adolescence, getting a boy to like you is profound. The pair formed a template (and expectation) for what I would desire as my teenage years evolved.
And so it was a bit shocking, at the time, when they broke up. I was never certain of the reasons. They were probably silly and it was probably dramatic but as they went their separate ways, I observed that D seemed depressed. His demeanour a bit more sullen. His eyes a little less full of radiance. I learned the end of love and its subsequent heartache would not be pleasant.
I never did see her in person again.
A few years later, her picture would be on every newspaper cover and featured on every newscast. She was murdered by an acquaintance she had met; her body discovered in a forested region of eastern Manitoba. I recognized her visage immediately. Her teenage features now frozen in time, an early lesson on the darkness and unjust nature of life.
My hometown, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, was recently included as one of twenty destinations on National Geographic's list of Best Trips to take in 2016. Dubbed the "little spark on the prairie", it's well worth adding to your bucket list … as a summer excursion though.
To view more pictures of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba, click here.
While in Winnipeg over the summer, I learned that a locale from my youth was slated for demolition. Fort Richmond Plaza was a mall near the University of Manitoba servicing the southern suburbs, including my 'hood St. Norbert. Anchor tenants Safeway and Zellers shared space with retailers as diverse as a a jeweller to a Chicken Delight to several hair salons that doubled as social clubs for the elderly. Most of these businesses moved out long, long ago, leaving a building that was nearly vacant for the better part of a decade.
Despite south Winnipeg becoming a hotbed of development over the years, Fort Richmond Plaza never changed. It's interior bleak; the mall was perpetually stuck in 1983. This is why I liked it. This is why I'll miss it. Walking through those doors was like entering a time machine back to my childhood. I recall my mother buying me my first Barbie there. In high school, this is where the truancy officer would have found me (if they ever bothered to look).
Prior to its demolition, a security guard granted me access to photograph the abandoned structure. I hope to continue this "Small Town Mall" series in the future, as these former hubs of commerce disappear from the retail landscape.
To view more, click here.
I love winter. I love snowflakes and hot cocoa and the spirit of the season that causes strangers to become friends and friends to become family (even if it only lasts until 11:59pm on December 25). Some of my fondest memories involve growing up in Winnipeg, a true winter city where the citizenry seem to thrive on temperatures below -40 degrees celcius. As a child, there were three things that I always looked forward to:
• Visiting Santa's Village at Eaton's Department Store: So iconic was this display that it is now permanently featured at the Children's Museum of Winnipeg. Mimicking a turn-of-the-century street with animated fairytale vignettes in every shop window, it was a place that enchanted both young and old alike. I believe I spent more time staring in wonder at Sleeping Beauty than I did asking Santa for bounty. The best part was afterwards when my mother would take me to the bakery on the 4th floor and purchase Italian tri-colour cookies. Best. Dessert. Ever. And so damn hard to find nowadays.
Coincidentally, it was the Eaton's Santa of 1986 that made me stop believing in the jolly fat man. After failing to deliver me a Puffalump on Christmas, I started to question the myths that society was coaxing me to believe as fact. I never told my parents that I stopped believing. I didn't want to hurt their feelings by admitting I was athiest at the age of six. I also didn't want to stop our seasonal visits to Santa's Village.
I found this picture online of the display, but it doesn't do it justice. You really had to be a child growing up in Winnipeg in the 80s to truly understand how magical a place this was.
• Skating and Sledding at St. Vital Park: By my father's account, I was a pretty good skater as a kid. I don't know why I dropped this hobby (the invention of Nintendo, perhaps?) but I do remember how much I enjoyed skating at St. Vital Park with my dad. And I know it meant a lot to him as well because skating was a huge part of his own young adulthood (he was a former hockey player who came thisclose to playing in the NHL). There never seemed to be anyone at this frozen over lake and I often felt as though the winter wonderland it presented belonged solely to me. Gliding under the stars like a whirling dirvish with snowflakes falling on my nose was a pursuit that connected me with Mother Nature in both a tangible and spiritual way. I would never stop believing in her like I did the dude who denied me the Puffalump.
Also at St. Vital Park was my favorite sled run. It was high and it was looooooonnnnngggg. Over the years I went through a variety of launch vehicles (tobaggan, magic carpet, saucer, sledge), each one left me believing that in the moment I was actually breaking the sound barrier. The icy track also made it's way through a forest. It doesn't sound safe, but I never got hurt while going down it. Key word: "down". One year when I was about five or six-years-old, I slipped and fell flat on my face while walking back up to the launch point. I immediately started wailing and when my dad came to get me up, the white snow was all hue-dyed red with blood. Lots of blood. I spent the remainder of the evening in the ER. In retrospect, it was okay though as we got hot chocolate and a maple dip donut on the way home.
Perhaps this post isn't about winter memories so much as it is about just desserts?