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Faraway sadness and longing

June 17, 2013
Frozen Pond Fun

Frozen Pond Fun from Flickr user: Otto Phokus

Far Away.  For me, these words refer to a very real place of fantasy and adventure, and maybe a little sadness and longing.

I am an immigrant.  Those words carry a lot of baggage with them, so I will quickly add that I am a very lucky immigrant.  Most people I meet don’t even think of me as such (even if my accent immediately gives away that I was not born here).  I am very lucky, and I acknowledge that.  Moving from Canada to Australia was not as difficult as I can imagine it would be if I were to move to, say, Mongolia or Paraguay.  Canada and Australia share a common language (although my francophone cousins might call me on that one), and to some extent, a common history and culture.

I understand what happened at Anzac Cove.  It happened at Vimy Ridge  for Canada.  I understand Ned Kelly.  He’s an Australian Louis Riel.  Even in politics, I arrived in this country to Howard vs. Costello, after just leaving Chrétien vs. Martin behind me.

But still, there are differences.  There are days when I feel outside the Australian experience.  There are less of them as time moves on.  In some ways, this is comforting; I fit in now.  But often it causes distress, as I feel I am slowly losing something intrinsic to me.  As I fit in more and more in Australia, do I fit in less and less in Canada?

I remember one of the first times I spoke about my childhood with my father-in-law.  I can’t remember how I got onto the topic, chatting about this or that, but I told him about how we used to have to shovel snow off the pond before going skating.  He gave me a quizzical look – he assumed, rightly, that growing up in Canada, I would have the experience of skating on a frozen pond.  But he never thought about that less romantic part that they never show on adaptations of Anne of Green Gables – we have to clear the pond before we can skate on it.

Since that day it has irked me, gnawed at me, that my children (my currently-non-existent children I should point out) will not experience this either.  It has turned my thoughts inward, and I have revisited in my head many times the Nova Scotia childhood that is so far from me now.

Liverpool, Nova Scotia, is a wonderful town.  History has blessed it with a wonderful backstory – a town where skirmishes between the town militia and Yankee raiders  took place in front of friend’s houses.  Tradition has granted it with its share of ghost stories.  And the glaciers left a wonderful gift to kids; they’ve dotted the town with huge boulders that make wonderful forts with a little imagination.

I know I didn’t appreciate it at the time.  In my high school year book, I said my ambition was “to leave town”.  I’m sure that’s only because I couldn’t fit in “to leave this cruddy little one horse town”.   How I regret that now.  I suppose those you’re allowed to be young and immature when you’re young and immature.

Now though, over 10000 miles and 20 years away, I miss that little town like crazy.  I walk my old paper route in my mind in bed at night.  It boggles me to think that the 5th paper I delivered every morning was to some old guy I knew only as Mr. Raddall – that’s Thomas H. Raddall, the celebrated author who penned classics such as The Nymph and the Lamp and Halifax: Warden of the North.  I wish I’d have appreciated it at the time.  Perhaps Mr. Raddall’s paper would have been delivered a little earlier, and with a little more care.

I wonder if that young kid trudging through the fresh snow, with three layers of winter clothes and 42 copies of the Halifax Chronicle Herald slung over his shoulder, would recognise me.  I know he’d never guess he’d wind up where he did.  I know he did not foresee the adventures life would take him.

Maybe my (currently-theoretical) children will never know what it is like to clear the snow off the pond near Fort Point on an early December morning.  I know they will find adventure here though.  And I know they won’t appreciate it until they’re 10,000 miles away and missing home.


Scott is a Canadian-Australian web developer and teacher of Information Technology (Web) at Miller College of TAFE.  His interests include technology, history, genealogy, and photography.  You can find Scott online at his website and Twitter @MillerTAFEScott.


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