What ‘home’ really means

I promised myself I wouldn’t bore you with any more droning on about my recent trip to Fort Frances to launch my novel.
I apologize for repeating myself and for my effusiveness, but here I am at my daughter’s desk, getting ready to pen this week’s column submission, and the only words I can find are those of thankfulness.
I’m thankful for coming from Fort Frances, a community which honours its own; which jumps at the opportunity to say “well done” and “you are one of us.”
I stood at the microphone at the library and my heart was pounding so hard I thought it might burst right out of my chest, and my knees were knocking against one another. I couldn’t help questioning who am I to stand in front of anyone; how can this accomplishment of mine have any value to anyone but me?
I looked to my left and there was “Auntie Evy,” who has known me since birth and who has had a hand in shaping me into the person I am—teaching me to swim, to drink tea without sugar, to appreciate skim milk, and who accompanied me on the piano at the festivals year after year.
Beside her was Del Cumming, who was “Auntie Del” when I was little—our families traipsing back and forth; our lives entwined.
There was Micaela, who came right up front to cheer me on (having shared home room with me in high school); who is a cheerleader and encourager of the highest order. And Timea, my dear great-niece sitting beside me, passing her bold courage over to me before I spoke.
And I listened to Lor introduce me with such generous love while her team of Sue and Jane fuelled my belief in this.
I’m thankful for the Cumming family giving me the opportunity to write for the Fort Frances Times—a task I consider an honour. I’m thankful for Doug and Blair for welcoming me to Betty’s and making space for me to sign books, and for their encouragement and support.
I’m thankful for Andrea Avis and the “Friends of the Library” for holding the reading evening with wine and cheese; creating an atmosphere of celebration and affection, with Anna Schwartz playing the piano beautifully in the background.
I’m thankful for Heather’s article in the Times, and for Melissa’s skilled and thoughtful rendering. I’m thankful for everyone who came and shared a hug and a story, and shared time with me.
It was an evening of fun and laughter and remembering. Old friends, former beloved teachers, new faces, and fellow writer Frances Shelfantook all were there. To think that each of these people gave of their time for me was something I will never forget.
I drove slowly away from town not wanting to go—stopping on the other side of the Causeway to look back, remembering the ribbon-cutting ceremony with my grandfather in 1965 and knowing something special was happening.
I am so proud of where I come from; so proud of a town that rallies despite having come through economic uncertainty—a town looking to the future with enthusiasm and hope.
To thank everyone in the room at the library, and those who came to Betty’s for a book and a signing, those who came to share a memory, would be impossible.
But each face, each hug I shared drew me in, warmed my heart, and I knew in the most profound way what “home” really means.
wendistewart@live.ca

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