Sunday, July 09, 2006

Out of the main stream into a little brook

A strange twist along my way from birth is that I have not participated intimately in the most important issues of my lifetime. My grandfathers were too old to be in World War I, my father too old to be in World War II. I did have uncles and family friends in World War II, as I have written in a previous post, but the war didn’t really hit us. My parents were affected by the depression, but I was too young to feel the effects. I grew up in a small village, and going to the movies involved quite a trek. We went seldom; I didn’t see the movies that influenced many of my generation: The Wizard of Oz or Fantasia for example. I didn’t really begin to watch television much at all until I was 50.

I was deeply affected by one great sea change, that of children of ordinary parents being able to go college. I was the first of my family. By the time my cousins came along, going to college was the norm. My husband was in the Air Force but in between conflicts. We had been in Canada three years before the great struggle over the Vietnam War broke out. We missed the revolution of draft-dodging, bra burning, Chicago protest, long hair.

I am grateful that I did take the road less-traveled by, to New Brunswick, at the time of a great outpouring of the arts here. I was in on the beginning of an influential writers’ group, of the establishment of the Maritime Writers’ Workshop, the Writers’ Federation of NB, and the alternate Gallery Connexion. I was present at the birth of some wonderful novels and powerful poetry. I didn’t have to submit my work, I was asked for it. There was a wonderful sense of excitement here, of things moving. Not only was I, a stranger in a strange land, allowed to participate, I was welcomed.

When we came here, I was unformed, really. I had been educated, I was a wife and a mother, but in a sense, my life was just beginning. In a few years I had become a writer and a bonafide member of a renaissance.

When I go back to my native land, I feel out of place. I feel like Rip VanWinkle, waking up after 40 years and finding myself in unfamiliar territory. I am not, nor ever have been, a complaining expatriate, loathing my native land. I admire it for all it stands for, for its good, although sometimes na├»ve, intentions. When I hear criticism of the USA, no matter how well-deserved, I want to say, “But my people are not like that.” I am still, however, grateful and amazed at what a success for me personally and for our whole family, our Canadian journey turned out to be.

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