I am a child of the prairies

My writing group has had several prompts lately that I haven’t been able to complete.  This post combines a few of them–introduce yourself, edit a previous post, write about where you’re from.  All good things to revisit from time to time, don’t you think?

P1020585I am a child of the prairies. My parents were born in southern Saskatchewan, and their parents were too. In fact, four generations of my family were born within 200 miles of each other. My great-grandfather is buried in Caron, a town that grew up around his father’s homestead. His tombstone announces he was the first white baby born west of Moose Jaw and I’ve often wondered why that was important. His grave is surrounded by those of his parents and his grandfather on one side, and by my grandfather and two aunts on the other. In that little cemetery nothing is manicured. Tumbleweeds swirl and dance as though they were socks in a dryer, and swallows perform triple axels in the sky above. It is the one place on earth where I feel completely naked, but not at all vulnerable. It is where I go when God commands my attention. 

I inherited an Irish temper, but I am not an Irish Canadian; I have a true appreciation of  French, but I am not a French Canadian. The headstones tell me that I am simply “Canadian”, and that is–and always has been–enough for me. P1020563

I am a child of a small prairie town which today has 1523 residents. This is roughly twice the size it was when I was growing up there. We walked to school every day, escorted only by our imaginations. Nothing was far. The rink was around the corner. Piano lessons—up the hill, and it only took ten minutes to spend our allowance on the original peppermint MoJos. I had my first nearly-romantic-encounter under the kissing tree that still stands at the elementary school. The little church where I sang my first solo still watches over the kids on the tobogganing hill…laughing children,  arms stretched to the sky as they try to see who can go farthest. 

I am a child of prairie floods. From two of those experiences in particular, I learned early lessons of prayer and teamwork. The only way to get out of town to the other was by boat over the bridge. I thought the word “evacuation” meant “sleepover at Gram’s”. But for my parents and my older brother, evacuation meant filling thousands of sandbags, and then a few thousand more as they built 20 foot dykes around the high school. I was too small, and my job was to make and eat cookies at Grandma’s house, sharing them (or not) with younger siblings. Ah yes, evacuation! 

I am a child of prairie winds and I detest it still. Once on a MoJo run, I was filled with an odd and terrifying sensation as the wind picked me up and carried me a good ten feet. I fought and struggled to get my toes back on the sidewalk. The success of that adventure is why I am known to be quite tenacious today. Okay, I’m downright stubborn. At least I go with my strengths. 

crocusesI am a child of prairie crocuses. I have always loved these flowers, but never more so than the year I turned 35. You see, I had been told that I would likely die before that birthday. But shortly after, the crocuses peeked through the ground again, and I realized that I might have to attend that retirement planning seminar after all. Like many people I did not start to live my life until I was told that I may not have the chance to. 

A treasured friend wrote a poem that sums it up so well:  ‘one more spring for Crystal’, and that is what they represent for me. It was another profound lesson in faith. More than a decade ago, crocuses mysteriously showed up on my desk at work, and the same friend said ‘did he know?’  He didn’t…but he does now, and I wisely married him in 2004. 

I am a child of prairie tradition. I work hard, much of the time but like the artists who came to my little home town, I am awestruck by the beauty of golden wheat against particular shades of blue and white. I love baking. I love crunchy snow instead of slushy mush. I know what a tornado feels like, but more importantly, I have learned that I am strong enough to survive it. 

I am a child of prairie simplicity. That is what I like about myself most of all.

11 thoughts on “I am a child of the prairies

  1. As a prairie girl I loved this post. Beautifully done. My grandfather homesteader near the town of Nakomis SK. Father born mid-March in a blizzard with the doctor going between 2 farms to deliver another baby. Dad’s birth was never registered so his Mom had to declare he existed when he signed up in WW2. My husband rural farm boy from near Medicine Hat. Prairie girls rock!! Great job.

  2. Now move northeast across the province and eventually you’ll arrive at Canora, Saskatchewan. That’s where I was born and so were my parents. One grandparent was born near there as well (my mom’s mom) and the rest somewhere about the provinces of the old Soviet Union. Although we spoke Russian at home (and I still fall back into that ‘old accent’ when I visit with my siblings and mom), English was important to my family. Dad was an avid reader and mom still is an expert crossword fan. My grandma (dad’s mom) loved crocuses, too. I remember Dad telling us that story each spring when he spied the first ones in bloom. Wind is hot or cold, wind is dusty, and wind is noisy. When your mother hides you in the cellar because of severe winds, wind is scary. I still dream of surviving a wind storm and looking outside our house after it was all over to see everything from mangled trains to giraffes and elephants running hither and yon. We were nowhere near a train track or a zoo! So, Crystal, once again, you put words to memories swirling around in my head; well done, dear friend! Be well and write lots!

    1. I think when I die, no one should bring flowers. Everyone should plant crocuses! Pat, I always loved it when you slipped into speaking some Russian, though I can’t understand a thing. And I can see your parents’ hobbies have totally influenced who you are. That storm sounds crazy. I have a vague recollection of dad pushing us into the ditch beside or under the truck once. Then of course, there was that day in 1987 when you “conveniently” picked a holiday over the tornado. Thanks for stopping by, Pat and for reminding me of your heritage too!

  3. My father lies in the cemetery where his brother and sisters lie, many of them beside their spouses. The generations in that cemetery predate the civil war. It is in a county in Texas where an old shed stands that was once a house that my granny and her father were both born in. Half my family has moved back there since dad and mom took up to the northwest states when I was 5. Though it is a place I only know through brief visits and knowing that family still live in that area, it is the closest thing to roots I have.

    Thank you for taking me back to my roots through my reading about yours. The form of the post is beautiful. Each new I am statement was like a new breeze.

  4. If you are a child of the prairie, I am a soul of the desert. I never knew a childhood here in Utah, but I was embraced by the deserts around me, and call this place my home. I loved reading about your prairie. What a nice vacation for me this morning, getting lost in your words.

  5. It is an amazing feeling to have a history like that. I’ve been to the house where my great grandfather and my grandfather were born. There was a big clearing surrounded by tall birches. I used to call it Great Grandpa’s cathedral. I loved it there.

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