This summer we spent part of our vacation at my parents’ beautiful six-acre property in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. We took our daughter to the Valley View Little Animal Farm to feed baby goats and ride a train through corn fields. We travelled to Hemmingford, Quebec to visit a friend’s family and pick apples. And I’ll admit… all of this country-living may have made this high-heel wearing, nightlife loving, die-hard city girl a little nostalgic.
The country and I have always had an on-again/off-again relationship. My partner and many of my friends grew up in small towns and speak of their origins with pride, whereas I find the question of where I grew up a little awkward, like I’m being made to talk about a failed romance that needs explanation.
I spent a good chunk of my younger years in Ottawa on the Rockliffe military base, which at the time was a strange hybrid of a place. It was like a small town, with its own general store, a single school to which all the kids walked and a strong sense of community. It was somewhat secluded but the busy Montreal Road was up the hill and downtown just minutes away.
When I was 10 we moved to the village of Russell, about 30 km south-east of Ottawa. We did the country-living stuff, but truthfully, I was never a full-fledged country girl. At 14 I decided I couldn’t fully commit and opted to commute to the city for high school. At 18, my best friend I moved to an apartment near the nightlife of Elgin Street. I loved that small town but it was time to see if the city and I could finally make it work.
We worked well; however, two years later I went back to Russell. I worked at the local weekly newspaper but again commuted to the city for school. My job had me immersed in the goings-on of small town life, while my social life brought public transit and nights in the Byward Market. I was always somewhat caught between my love for the lights and noise of the city and the crickets and cow manure of the country, never quite sure to which I belonged.
When I graduated from university the country and I again parted ways with no ill will. It had been nice but it was time to get back to the city.
The city is where I’ve been since and where we intend to stay.
Yet this summer I find myself remembering my 12-year-old-self frolicking through the forest, biking along streets with no traffic lights and meeting friends at the annual fair.
Watching my daughter pick wildflowers and hide under my parents’ willow trees, talk about pigs and horses and eat too many freshly picked apples makes me wonder if maybe I walked away from something good. Is she, am I, missing out on a wonderful life? Maybe the country and I need to make another go at it…
But then I remember how last weekend we rode our bikes along the Rideau River (which flows through downtown) and stopped for an impromptu dip; how the weekend before that we joined our neighbours in a backyard BBQ and trip to an urban light festival; and how this winter I’ll teach my daughter to skate on the Rideau Canal. With that I know that it’s in the city, this city, we belong.
I love the country because it’s an occasional treat. I love it because it’s an escape, a special and sometimes almost magical place that I’m never in quite long enough. If I want to preserve that feeling I need to stay here. I know that with the country I’d grow restless and bitter because despite its good looks and free spirit, the country and I were never meant to be more than a summer romance.