The sunlight streams in my window, reflecting off the polished wood floor. It fills my bedroom with so much light it’s impossible to sleep. Last night’s snow storm has vanished and the morning sun twinkles on the fresh, snow-covered fields beyond my window on the second floor of an old stone farmhouse. The room is warm and I push at the old frame window, lifting it enough to shove a book under it to let in some fresh air. A crow calls and I notice birdsong for the first time in months. The air has lost the dry bite of winter. Although still cool, it smells of a warm day to come. The long icicles along the eaves that have formed over the weeks have lost their frosty surface. They shine as the sun melts them. I listen as they drip. I hear sounds of water trickling. This is March, 1979 and I am 11 years old.
I remember this day because it was the last day of my country life and the first day of my life as an urbanite. It was a day that marked a distinct change in my life.
We began it with a breakfast of cereal eaten quickly – and with a little more silence at the table than usual. My twin brother and I were excited about moving into a new home but also worried about what this change would bring to our lives. We finished breakfast and began loading the farm truck and my elder brother’s car. His car filled quickly and he was instructed to take us to the new house, drive carefully, and treat us to a special lunch on the way.
We drove down the road, looking back for a last glimpse of the house. My twin brother said what we were both thinking, “Goodbye home,” and then kept saying goodbye to everything we passed. “Goodbye pond filled with leaches where our raft sits rotting. Goodbye raft. Goodbye church camp with the prayer wagon that we flour-bombed when we were eight years old. Goodbye neighbours with the dogs that bit my brother’s butt. Goodbye pigs who chased our friend’s mother down the road. Goodbye smelly house with the old lady with too many cats. Goodbye lonely church at the top of the hill. Goodbye general store that we were not allowed to ride our bikes to, but did anyway.”
My brother’s sense of humour was always at its peak in sad times. I looked out the window and said goodbye to the trees and the fields; to the smell of damp earth in the spring; to the feel of the long field-grass on my legs; to the stillness of the forest in the winter.
We ate our first fast-food hamburger that day, pulling up to a pick-up window for the first time in our lives. My eldest brother swore that Wendy’s had the best hamburgers although my twin brother and I had heard that McDonald’s was the place to go. I remember taking my first bite into that hamburger covered with every topping they had, plus extra pickles. It was the best food I had ever tasted.
After eating our lunch in the parking lot we headed over to our new house. We left the commercial area of town and entered a very run-down neighbourhood. The houses were old brick homes and many of them were boarded up. We pulled into the driveway of one home that didn’t have boards over the windows. We looked at our older brother in horror. “You’re joking,” we both exclaimed. He shook his head and told us to be positive as our father was going to show up any minute.
The house was a small triplex in need of some major renovations. When my parents arrived they started unloading and we were told to stay out of the way. My mother suggested we walk down to the lake – which was a few blocks away – and warned us to look both ways before crossing the streets.
The wind had picked up and the warm sunny morning had changed to a blustery day with a cold wind coming off the lake. We took our time, making our way down a tree-lined street, peering into all the houses we passed. A cat meowed to us from the top step of a front porch and we wondered if we could go up and pet it – we had no idea of city etiquette. Dark clouds were rolling in over the lake. My brother became thoughtful and once again said what we were both thinking. “We’ve hit rock bottom.”
We crossed the final street and walked through a muddy field to the waterfront. Huge waves crashed against the break wall. We played “stand in one spot and see if a wave will land on you.” Many did, but the water was warm compared to the cold air. We walked along a pebble beach that seemed to stretch out for miles and skipped rocks over the surface of the water. We discovered large sand dunes that blocked out the noise of the traffic and ay in them listening to the waves and seagulls calling in the sky above us. We talked about losing our farm to the bank, about moving into such a small house. However, our talk soon turned to the possibilities this new place offered, like going to the beach every single day in the summer. And the boarded-up houses made our country tree forts seem boring in comparison. We returned home dripping wet, but happy with our discoveries.
When I think of March I think of the old winter snow melting away, of the sound of the icicles dripping, water trickling and the fresh new scent of uncovered earth.
It is a time of change and I remember that day so many years ago with my twin brother, when I learned that with every change comes a whole new set of circumstances and possibilities.