Visit allows me to erase time

I’m here in Fort Frances, where I just finished the book-signing at Betty’s with Doug and Blair last Thursday.
I was so worried I might faint or throw up—or worse—but it was beyond lovely. I don’t even know how to thank those who came to Betty’s to share hugs and remembering; to say it was special is a huge understatement.
I was so moved, so honoured. Thank you.
The day before the book launch, I took a walk to soak in the beauty along the beautiful waterfront that Fort Frances has created and I was transported back in time.
I dipped my toes in the river and I allowed myself to erase the years and the changes and Fort Frances was everything that it used to be to me, with all the years rolling into a single moment. I am no particular age; just every age all at once.
First stop was the Dairy Queen by the railroad tracks and I bought a 15-cent cone; had it dipped in chocolate. Such a delicious treat. I watched a baseball game and saw Billy scooping up the ball at third base and sending it home like a rocket, then he recorded the statistics to the very detail.
He and Jim played their guitars after, and the sound was delicious and comforting in my head and oh so familiar. Maureen, Penny, Ann, and me learned to be new moms together, all with daughters.
My sister and I are on our ponies, galloping, always galloping. I am at the Rainy Lake Hotel with my father having supper, and I have ordered the pickerel with the lyonnaise potatoes in their own saucer as if I am a very important patron and things have to be just so.
I crawled up on Annie’s knee in my memory and she told me everything is going to be just fine, her lips against my cheek.
The high school is still intact and the tennis courts busy with balls bouncing up on to the roof of the cafeteria, and I will be tempted to scramble up the cafeteria doors and scale the cafeteria windows to fetch them.
We will be building Homecoming floats and fluffing tissue flowers and hoping the Muskies will win, and the pep band will lead us in celebration. Mr. Quesnel will hover nearby, encouraging without limiting, believing in without fuss.
Jamie will be running for a touchdown.
Lori and I will cruise through town in my dad’s car from the A&W round the Point and back again. And we will park in Safeway parking lot and imagine where our lives might lead us and where we have come from.
Tina will play her flute and recorder, and the sound will soothe all the hurts. Karen will put Joe Cocker on her record player. Angie will laugh her wonderful laugh.
Barry Cox will be at the post office with his friendly face and Don Law will man his hardware store and sell me my first bike again, pointing out the finer features of this particular model.
I will get a white paper bag filled with honey dip doughnuts from the Electric Bakery and, of course, buy a new halter for my horse or some fabric from Betty’s, which will be tucked into the treasured pink bag.
Doug and Blair will nod patiently as I banter with them.
I will sit on Loraine’s couch, her horribly uncomfortable couch (which I hesitate to mention), and we will be together; year after year of our precious friendship.
All of it will be unchanged, the trees on the streets still standing where they always stood, without having fallen to the chain saw. The stories will unfold one after the other and I will try to gather them all in without letting one drop; unable to write them all here.
My dad either will be on his tractor or behind his desk at the Clinic waiting for me to burst into his office with a story and a request to borrow a dime for a pop from the pop machine.
All the people whom I loved and admired still will be just as they were—still creating the community that I always will call home; always until the very last day.
wendistewart@live.ca

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