There’s a photo of our house on 9th Ave. – long and uninspriring – its modification at the hands of my father speaks well of his practical nature and shows a clear demarcation where the small, cottagesque charm was repeated, its proportions drawn out into an awkward ratio. 857 9th Ave. has a reasonably sized frontage stretching out in the back to include a large garden, with the more exotic gooseberries sitting alongside the quotidian carrots and cabbage. At the far southern edge, a row of fruit trees offered up the pears and plums that would herald my Mum’s first experience in canning. Over the winter, plum jam would be rationed out, wax seals would be removed and residual flecks picked out with the tines of a fork. New to Canada from Northern England (the land of canned milk) and even newer to the west kootenays, our backyard was where I learned to cast a fishing and where I learned to shoot, at first a .177 air-pistol and later a handsome, wood-stock Russian-made air rifle of the same calibre.
Under this umbrella of childhood I also killed my first animal, a crow, as it sat poking around across the road. Though here I will tip into gravitas, it is easy for me retroactively call this act a tipping point childhood. From the halcyon qualities of gooseberry and plum jam to that first mortal sin and my increasing insulation as a response to the xenophobia of the village’s redneck majority, the slide towards teenage malaise began right around there. We left the Kootenays in 1984 but at some point before then we had a visitor, a stranger who showed up at the front door asking to look around the house, their former home. Surprising then, the desire to go home is the desire that colours my early middle age.
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Boots suck into the pudding that turns to chocolate milk and, at best porridge, defining all egress through the training area. The day before I flew out to Exercise Desert Ram, I was called to ensure that I brought a good pair of warm, high rubber boots. For that I am so very grateful.
Slopping east along one of the arterial dirt roads with Pte. Caldwell, here begins my first contact with the Third Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry as I prepare to enter the house left behind almost two decades ago. As it turns out, Caldwell and I both lived in Kelowna for stretches and his Battle School instructor was my Battle School peer. These surprising commonalities make the trip comfortable but also give me optimism about the myth of going home again.