Can you really ever go home?
I approach the community from the main route of anywhere in south Calgary — Anderson Road. I notice Bonavista peeking up from behind tiny hills that border the houses from the noisy traffic of the four-lane freeway. Even with a quick glance from my car, moving nearly 80 km/h I know that it’s a safe and friendly place to be.
I no longer have an actual house to go back to in Bonavista, but being here today activates some of my most vivid memories.
I take the first exit into the neighborhood and am greeted immediately by that
Photo courtesy of Phillip Meintzer
forever-familiar “Lake Bonavista” sign. Made of strong red brick and iron fencing, it is clear these signs are built to last — yet they look comfortably worn in. What a perfect representation of the community I remember — proud, comfortable and sturdy.
I continue to drive, feeling anxious. Has this place always had so many playground zones? There’s a school on every corner. As a kid, this just meant more places to play and fields to cut through. Now, as an impatient young adult — who has the occasional, yet tasteful, case of road rage — it means a drive down the street takes what feels like hours.
I end up at the lake. Lake Bonavista has two man-made lakes. There’s the private lake – only accessible to those whose houses back onto it. Unless you’re one of those, “darn teenagers” who sneaks in through someone’s yard in the middle of the night.
Then, there’s the public lake. As anyone who grew up in this community would — even those who have access to the private lake — I went to the public lake. Everyone has memories for behind those trees that burst through the chain link fence.
It’s winter right now and I can hear the hockey pucks gliding along the bumpy
ice. During Calgary’s bitter cold, the lake is one of the warmest places to be. It’s a hockey arena for aspiring NHL players, a skating path for teenage lovers and place that provides the ultimate tobogganing hill of death.
I just realized that I can’t go in. I’m alone, without a resident to sign me in. It was just habit I guess, to pull right up to the front security gate and with the swipe of a card be back in the place I have always been “allowed” to be. Wow, I guess I really don’t live here anymore.
I gaze through the open space in the fence that faces the parking lot. Everything I remember is right in front of me. I so badly want to be there.
I can see the dock I broke my nose on. The island I would breathlessly swim to every summer. And the roof of the lakeside restaurant all the popular boys jump off of. There’s that hill too. Now, I would get to tan at the top — where the oldest sit and everyone younger is below. I realized I won’t be up there this year — I don’t live here anymore.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
I mindlessly begin walking down the always-quiet streets. I’m walking along that long chain-link fence, laden with luscious trees throughout it. It doesn’t look un-kept though, it never has. It just looks comfortable, like the treetops above me are providing a roof and shelter.
Photo by Phillip MeinzterI need the feeling of comfort right now. This is the same road I ran down the day my parents broke up. I had just gotten home from camping in the summer and was greeted with a “Veronica, I have to tell you something,” from my mother. Little did I know I hadn’t really come back home and I would never get to experience the home I’ve always known ever again.
That happened about 3 years ago. I went on a long and tearful walk that day — unintentionally in bare feet. Looking back, the essence of the neighborhood and its place in my heart were so alive that day. I remember, “needing to be alone,” yet automatically going out into the streets where I was guaranteed to know anyone crossing my path.
It was one of my very best friends, Pete, who I saw in front of me. It was summer and he was probably on his way to or coming from the lake. But I didn’t really ask. I just ran to him. He saw my shattered appearance and my bare feet absorbing pokes from the gravel scattered across the sidewalks. I remember him hugging me. I smelled the salt from my tears — it overwhelmed me as my face squished into his T-shirt. He didn’t ask much, he was just there. He cared. He walked with me down the road we both knew so well.
The reassurance of an old friend is exactly what I needed at that time. I was about to experience something completely unfamiliar, scary and new.
Bonavista is an old friend for so many– whether it’s the walk down the leaf-covered streets to the first day of school — or learning to ride a bike up and down the perfectly rounded curbs that are ready to brace the falls.
I don’t really have to go back to those exact places, whether it’s the lake, the park I broke my collarbone at or my junior high bus stop. None of us can really go back to those definite places, can we?
We will all be in this position one day, realizing that some moments are just behind us. I certainly can’t repeat that day on Bonaventure Drive with Pete. Nor would I want to. Whether that day had happened or not, I would still be in the position I am now, because leaving the neighborhood is just a part of growing up.
Since, “growing up,” I have had to go many places I have never been before — both emotionally and physically — but today I came back to the neighborhood that I will always know. This is the neighborhood that sent me off to grow up after that tearful walk in my bare feet.