Last week I turned 40. To mark the occasion, I took a trip with my sister. We made a pilgrimage to Elliot Lake, Ontario, the tiny town where I spent half my childhood. It’s the former uranium capital of the world but now it’s almost a ghost town. It’s not close to anything at all. It’s as remote as you get, without having to fly in. It took hours and hours to drive there, and there were hardly any other cars on the road. There is a stunning lake on the edge of town, exposed rock faces, fields of northern wildflowers. The air smelled like clover and wind, and although I hadn’t been there for over 30 years, it was as familiar to me as my own reflection.
We found the house where we used to live. This is a picture of the house. My parents had three children here. We were two hours away from the nearest McDonald’s or traffic light. They moved, then moved again. Now they live in a big house in a Southern Ontario town which has everything, and it’s only a 45 minute drive from the American border. The house on Bouck road is overrun with pets and junk. The people who live there wouldn’t answer the door when we knocked. Roman Avenue Public school, where I was a student for four years, is an abandoned building the playground overrun with purple loosestrife and devil’s paintbrushes.
I spent roughly half my childhood in the Canadian hinterland, and half in the nation’s capital. For half my adult life I’ve lived in big cities, the other half I have spent in small American towns. Half my thirties were spent as an ambitious academic, the other half as a stay-at-home mother.
You don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but it doesn’t mean that you forget your past. Like most people, I haven’t really planned my life. I made a choice to move to America, but I’m kind of surprised that I am still here. I miss the north. And now that I’m 40, I feel like I should make plans. I’m not good at planning, so I’m starting small. Exercise every day. Drink enough water. Write on this blog. How you spend your days is how you spend your life. And a lot can change in thirty years.